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Michaele Vollbracht fashion illustrations

Identifier: KA-0043-01


Fashion illustrator Michaele Vollbracht (1947-2018) graduated from Parsons in 1968, and returned periodically as a visiting critic. After working as a design assistant for Geoffrey Beene, Donald Brooks, and Norman Norell, Vollbracht turned to fashion illustration and portraiture. In 1985 Vollbracht published Nothing Sacred, an illustrated memoir, and in 2000 Parsons mounted an exhibition to celebrate the release of an updated version of the book.

The bulk of the collection is comprised of fashion illustrations and designer portraits Vollbracht created for a 1972 fashion show celebrating Parsons School of Design's 75th anniversary and the establishment of the school's Gimbel Library. Also includes a sketch of Vollbracht's iconic Bloomingdale's shopping bag of 1975.


  • circa 1972-1986



9.3 Cubic Feet (6 oversize boxes, 4 oversize folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents of Collection

The bulk of the collection consists of mixed media fashion illustrations and portraits of 20th century American fashion designers created by Michaele Vollbracht.

The first series includes historical fashion illustrations possibly inspired by magazine photographs or illustrations. The drawings are rendered in a palette of black, white, and red. Some drawings feature explanatory notes identifying magazine publication dates and the apparel depicted, but no evidence of when Vollbracht created them. In 2017, researcher Jeffrey Banks identified the bulk of these unidentified illustrations as being of Norman Norell designs or, in one example, Vollbracht's own design for a bridal veil inspired by Norell. Illustrations depict notable women, such as Norma Shearer, Gertrude Lawrence, Mrs. Max Fisher, and his favorite model Denise Lyndon wearing Norell creations.

The second series consists of illustrations published in a program designed by Cipe Pineles Burtin for a student and alumni fashion show marking the 75th anniversary of Parsons School of Design and the establishment of the school's Gimbel Library in 1972. The series is comprised of portraits of American fashion designers and an illustration depicting a costume by each designer.

The third series consists of posters designed by Vollbracht depicting Hollywood film stars Gary Cooper and Marilyn Monroe, and Bloomingdale's publicity materials designed by Vollbracht, including his iconic shopping bag, a clipping of an advertisement, and a drawing.

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 designer and illustrator Michael Vollbracht (a.k.a. Michaele Vollbracht) was born in Quincy, Illinois in 1947. After graduating in 1968 from Parsons School of Design (now Parsons The New School for Design), where he earned the school’s Golden Thimble Award, Vollbracht worked as an assistant to Geoffrey Beene until 1969. Vollbracht designed for Donald Brooks (1969-1971) and Norman Norell (1971-1972) before shifting his attention to fashion illustration and graphic design.

Vollbracht became an illustrator for Henri Bendel. In 1975, Bloomingdale’s commissioned him to create a shopping bag. The result was a unique design that garnered the artist considerable recognition. Neither the department store’s name nor any other type of advertisement were included -- only the stylized portrait of a woman and the artist’s signature appeared on the bag. Vollbracht went on to form a successful fashion company, Vollbracht Design Studies, in 1977. His colorful, uniquely patterned designs appealed to both celebrities and the general public, earning him the Coty American Fashion Critics Award in 1980. The mid-1980s saw Vollbracht with three ready-to-wear clothing lines along with multiple manufacturing contracts for a wide variety of products.

At the pinnacle of his success, Vollbracht retired from the fashion industry to focus on illustrating. His work has been featured in Vogue, The New Yorker and in his illustrated memoir, Nothing Sacred (1985). In 1999, Vollbracht collaborated with Bill Blass to co-write the biography Bill Blass: An American Designer and to curate a retrospective of Blass’ work at the University of Indiana. After Blass died in 2002, Vollbracht returned to fashion design, becoming the creative director of the late designer’s successful clothing line until 2007, when he once again returned to a full-time career as an artist.

Vollbracht died on June 7, 2018 in North Safety Harbor, Florida at the age of 70.


Organized alphabetically by designer name in 3 series: 1. Fashion illustrations, circa 1972; 2. Illustrations for catalog, circa 1972; 3. Posters and Bloomingdale's publicity materials, 1976-1986

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials in Series III. donated by Michaele Vollbracht, 2000.

Related Materials

Additional records pertaining to the 1972 student and alumni fashion show will be found in the New School Archives' Parsons School of Design Fashion Design Department records (pre-2008 accessions) (PC.02.02.01), as well as samples of Michaele Vollbracht's student work created while attending Parsons. The fashion show program designed by Cipe Pineles Burtin will be found in the New School Archives' Parsons School of Design Adam and Sophie Gimbel Design Library records (pre-2011 accessions) (PC.08.01.01). Additional illustration work by Vollbracht for a Norman Norell retrospective will be found in the New School exhibitions and public programs collection (NS.05.03.01).

Guide to the Michaele Vollbracht fashion illustrations
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
October 5, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • June 29, 2017: Scope and content note updated to reflect new information.
  • November 13, 2020: Jenny Swadosh updated biographical note to reflect Michael Vollbracht's death.