Life Magazine 1964 in Donald Brooks

Barbra Streisand wore this Donald Brooks color blocked gown on the cover of LIFE magazine on May 22, 1964.  Donald Brooks (1928-2005) was born in New Haven CT, as Donald Blumberg. He studied at Yale school of Drama, where he first decided to become a costume and clothing designer. He went on to study fashion at FIT and Parsons in NYC. His first job in the industry was as a window designer for Lord & Taylor. This job brought him some acclaim and the store’s president, Dorothy Shaver, quickly hired him to design a collection. By the 60’s The New York Times had cited him as one of the 3 B’s of fashion including Bill Blass & Geoffrey Beene. He began designing his own collection from 1964-1973. During his career he was honored with three Coty Awards. Brooks also designed costumes for Broadway and film, earning an Emmy, Tony, and several Academy Awards nominations. 

His designs were noted for their simplicity and use of bold prints. His dresses were easy fitting and made in distinctive fabrics with surprising colors. He once said, “You can turn an absolute whore into a lady by just putting pearls around her neck.”The boldness about a Brooks design that made an impact, also made his contemporary dresses for the stage particularly successful.

His designs have been showcased in The Met Museum, The Smithsonian and more. Barbra’s Brooks maxi dress is Grecian style empire waist with a V-neck. The front is color blocked vertically with two layers of light pink and pale green chiffon. The back of the dress features a bias cut and, and is forest green. The dress is fully gathered and has a silk lining, rolled hem and zipper, hook & eye closure. This look perfectly encompassed Barbra’s favorite style elements that we would see her wearing for the vast majority of her career.