Donald Brooks, Costume Designer Who Jumped From Fashion to Broadway, Is Dead at 77

Obituaries   Donald Brooks, Costume Designer Who Jumped From Fashion to Broadway, Is Dead at 77 Donald Brooks, a costume designer who first impressed on Fashion Avenue before making a career in the theatre, died Aug. 1 at Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island of complications from a heart attack suffered in July. He was 77.

Mr. Brooks' first Broadway costume design was for the 1962 Richard Rodgers musical No Strings. He got the job in a way that bespoke of his fashion-world background. Employing an African-American model (the show was to star Diahann Carroll), he paraded his designs before Rodgers. The composer hired him, and Mr. Brooks won his first and only Tony Award nomination.

In the busy 12 months that followed, he also netted an Oscar nomination for his work on the 1963 Otto Preminger film "The Cardinal," and his first Coty Award for his fashion designs. He would collect two more Oscar nominations over his career.

His other Broadway credits included Barefoot in the Park; Fade Out—Fade In; Beekman Place; Poor Bitos; Diamond Orchid; Flora, the Red Menace; On a Clear Day You Can See Forever; Promises, Promises; Last of the Red Hot Lovers; Minnie's Boys; Night Watch; Holiday; Good News; The Member of the Wedding; Summer Brave; A Musical Jubilee; A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green; Monteith & Rand; Carmelina; and Dance a Little Closer in 1983, his final Broadway credit.

He designed more than 3,500 opulent period costumes for "Star!," the flop 1968 film in which Julie Andrews played Gertrude Lawrence. The designer went to London to research his work for the project. The clothes that resulted were then featured on the cover of Look magazine.

His designs were noted for their simplicity and use of bold prints. He once said, "You can turn an absolute whore into a lady by just putting pearls around her neck." After attending Syracuse University, Donald Brooks entered the Yale School of Drama, where he first decided to become a costume and clothing designer. He then transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology and then the Parsons School of Design. Things happened quickly for the New Haven native, who was born Donald Marc Blumberg on Jan. 10, 1928. When he showed talent designing the windows for Lord & Taylor in 1950, the department store's president, Dorothy Shaver, hired him to design a collection.

By 1963, he had opened his own business. He was well known enough to be paired with Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beane as "the three B's of fashion," according to the New York Times. Jacqueline Kennedy wore a Brooks-designed sleeveless pink silk sheath on a tour of India in 1962, Newsday reported. And when Truman Capote threw his famous "Black and White Ball" at the Plaza Hotel in 1966, there were more Brooks gowns at the party than those of any other designer.

In 1992, he began a stint as a Tony Award nominator.

His father, Harry Blumberg, had a theatrical background of sorts; a restaurant designer, one of his clients was Sardi's, the famous Broadway eatery.

He is survived by his sister, Kay Blick.

Diahann Carroll and Richard Kiley in <i>No Strings</i>, a Donald Brooks designed show
Diahann Carroll and Richard Kiley in No Strings, a Donald Brooks designed show
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