Arnold Scaasi Dies at 85; Dressed Stars and Socialites, His ‘Scaasi Girls’

Arnold Scaasi, Designer for Barbara Bush

Arnold Scaasi, Designer for Barbara Bush

Alexandra Jacobs writes:

Arnold Scaasi, the Canadian clothing designer whose exuberant creations were worn by generations of first ladies, socialites and Hollywood stars, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 85.

Michael Selleck, a longtime friend and an executive at Simon & Schuster, said Mr. Scaasi died of cardiac arrest at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center shortly before 2 a.m.

“I am definitely not a minimalist!” Mr. Scaasi once declared, acknowledging his fondness for bright colors, prints and embellishments like ruffles, bows, bugle beads, fur, feathers, fringe and paillettes. “Clothes with some adornment are more interesting to look at and more fun to wear.”

The proprietor of a long-running atelier in Midtown Manhattan, Mr. Scaasi was known for bringing the techniques of the French couture to prominent American women. Among them were Barbra Streisand, who wore a sheer, sequined, broadly bell-bottomed pantsuit designed by Mr. Scaasi to the 1969 Academy Awards, and Barbara Bush, who appeared in a puffy-shouldered blue velvet Scaasi gown for the presidential inauguration of her husband, George Bush, 20 years later.

Mr. Scaasi also designed formal wear for the first ladies Mamie Eisenhower, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. Joan Crawford, Joan Rivers, Elizabeth Taylor, Diahann Carroll and Mary Tyler Moore were all “Scaasi Girls,” as his most devoted clients were called. Ms. Moore appeared in a well-known ad campaign called “Me and My Scaasi.” He also made clothes for the sculptor Louise Nevelson, a close friend; flocks of debutantes; and even an order of nuns.

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