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Tom Brigance fashion publicity and sketches

Identifier: KA-0005-01


After graduating from the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (later, Parsons School of Design) in 1934, Tom Brigance (1913-1990) became a fashion designer specializing in women's swimwear and sportswear. The collection includes scrapbooks of clippings and photographs of Brigance's designs, sketches, publicity materials, and four original fashion illustrations of Brigance swimwear by Dorothy Hood, produced for Lord & Taylor.


  • 1932 - 1977



2.7 Cubic Feet (5 boxes, 1 oversize box, 6 oversize folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents of Collection

Although Brigance began his career designing a variety of women's apparel, by the 1960s he was primarily specializing in swimwear and sportwear, a focus reflected by the contents of this collection. Materials include fashion illustrations and sketches, scrapbooks, and publicity materials, such as press releases and fashion photographs, documenting the marketing of Brigance's designs. The collection also includes fashion illustrations by Dorothy Hood depicting Brigance swimwear sold through Lord & Taylor during the 1960s.

The bulk of the collection consists of thematic scrapbooks featuring magazine and newspaper clippings, captioned fashion photographs, press releases, and other printed publicity materials. The earliest scrapbook, which begins in 1932, covers Brigance's work with Bonwit Teller, Marjorie Dunton, Jaeger's, Simpson's (London) and Lord & Taylor, and features black and white photographs of Brigance at work early in his career. While photographs and printed materials, such as programs and invitations, have been isolated from newsprint for preservation purposes, the scrapbooks otherwise remain as titled and organized by their creator.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact:

Biographical note

American fashion designer Thomas Franklin Brigance was born in Waco, Texas on February 4, 1918. Brigance came to New York in 1931 to attend the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (now, Parsons School of Design) and the National Academy of Art. After graduating from Parsons in 1934, Brigance moved to Paris where he studied at the Sorbonne and the Academie de la Grande Chaumière, and later freelanced as a fashion designer for Jaeger and Simpson's of Picadilly in London. Brigance returned to New York and, after catching the attention of Dorothy Shaver of Lord & Taylor, began designing exclusive sportswear and beachwear for the department store. The Brigance name quickly became synonymous with swimwear and beachclothes, and Lord & Taylor boasted of the association in a 1939 advertisement appearing in Vogue, urging those in New York for the World's Fair to visit the Beach Shop, "home of creations by Brigance, one of our own designers, whose ideas enchant even the blasé Riviera."

Brigance left Lord & Taylor to join the military in 1941, and was decorated for bravery and leadership while serving in the Air Force Intelligence Service in the South Pacific from 1941 through 1944. Returning to Lord & Taylor after World War II, Brigance stayed until 1949, when he left to open his own firm. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he freelanced for Sportsmarket, Sinclair, and Gabar (now licensed by Swimwear Anywhere, Inc.).

Brigance went on to design a wide range of women's clothing, and even designed Chrysler automobile interiors in 1955 (with Parsons alumna Claire McCardell), but his notoriety came from his sportswear designs, which garnered him the Coty American Fashion Critic's Award in 1953, the International Silk Citation in 1954, the National Cotton Award in 1955, and the Internazionale delle Ari Award in 1956. After retiring in the late 1970s, Brigance continued to lecture at design and fashion institutes up to his death in 1990.

Organization and Arrangement

Organized in 2 series: 1. General, circa 1950s-1960s; 2. Scrapbooks, 1932-1977. Scrapbooks are arranged alphabetically by title.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred to the archives circa 2000.

Related Materials

A copy of American Fashion: The Life and Lines of Adrian, Mainbocher, McCardell, Norell, Trigere (New York: Quadrangle, 1975) inscribed to Brigance from Jean Colbert will be found in the New School Archives and Special Collections.

Guide to the Tom Brigance fashion publicity and sketches
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
November 9, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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