Designer Arnold Scaasi, Beloved By Stars and First Ladies, Dies at 85 

In Depth

Clothing designer Arnold Scaasi, who dressed Barbra Streisand and Barbara Bush, Mary Tyler Moore and Joan Crawford, has died at 85. “I am definitely not a minimalist!” he explained of his approach. “Clothes with some adornment are more interesting to look at and more fun to wear.”

Scaasi (which is Isaacs, his birth name, spelled backwards) was born in Montreal and apprenticed in France, but he broke out in America. The New York Times explains his appeal:

His designs drew generously from the past, often incorporating into his silhouettes castoff embellishments like peplums and petticoats. Many designers returned to a version of the 1950s-style pouf, or bubble skirt, in the late 1980s; Mr. Scaasi’s double-layered version was called, with a nod to Marie Antoinette, a “brioche.”
The average woman may not have had use for such fripperies, nor been able to afford them, but actresses and singers were drawn to Mr. Scaasi’s flamboyance. He began his work with show business personalities in 1955 by designing for Arlene Francis, the actress and panelist on the game show “What’s My Line?” He later designed for Joan Crawford when she was making public appearances for Pepsi, and for Claudette Colbert, Sophia Loren and Natalie Wood.

Scaasi first rose to prominence in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. But thanks to his opulent touches—“asymmetrical and brioche forms; sumptuous fabrics, often with diamante tracery or appliqués, flowers, embroidery, fur, beading and ruffles”—the 1980s were a particular great decade for him, WWD notes. His most dedicated fans were known as “Scaasi girls.”

He worked with several first ladies, as well. You might recognize his handiwork in the dress Barbara Bush wore to her husband’s first inaugural ball:

Or, more likely, this very famous getup Streisand wore to the Oscars:

Plus the story of how he met his partner is terribly romantic. WWD relates it:

After meeting purely by chance on Central Park South in July 1962, Scaasi and Ladd embarked on what became a 53-year union. “We met on the street. I was living at the athletic club and working at Scribners. Arnold lived nearby. He asked me for a drink and we never separated from that very moment on,” Ladd said Tuesday. “I was a real country boy from Island Post, Vermont, where my grandfather had a farm and was an inventor. Arnold was a pretty sophisticated New Yorker who was pretty busy on the fashion world.”

Speaking to the Times, Ladd chalked their five happy decades together up to “sheer enjoyment of each other’s personalities.”

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Images via AP.

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