Arnold Scaasi, Designer of Choice for 5 First Ladies, Dies at 85


First Lady Laura Bush wearing Arnold Scaasi at a state dinner in 2001.

Great American designer Arnold Scaasi died today at age 85, according to WWD.

The Montreal native, who retired from fashion in 2010 after 55 years of design, was called an “American couturier,” on par with Charles James, for whom he once apprenticed. Scaasi, born Arnold Isaacs (Scaasi is Isaacs spelled backward), first made a name for himself outfitting several First Ladies in his embellished gowns in saturated colors. First Ladies Mamie Eisenhower, “Lady Bird” Johnson, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush wore Scaasi gowns to special occasions. Barbara Bush even attended the CFDA Awards as Scaasi’s date in 1997, when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award.


Arnold Scaasi and First Lady Barbara Bush at the 1997 CFDA Awards.

“The best thing about my career was always the clients,” Mr. Scaasi told The New York Times upon his retirement. He knew what they needed for their lifestyle “because I had the same kind of lifestyle.”

Scaasi also made his mark in Hollywood, creating custom designs for the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, and Barbra Streisand, who infamously wore a transparent pajama set to accept her Academy Award for Funny Girl in 1969.


Barbra Streisand in her scandal-inducing Scaasi pajama set at the 1969 Oscars.

“Let’s face it, all the strategic parts were covered with lining underneath,” he told the Times of Streisand’s scandalous outfit, which was quite possibly the precursor to today’s naked dresses, popularized by Beyonce Knowles, Kim Kardashian West, and Jennifer Lopez. “It was the photographers’ flashbulbs that erased the outer level of silk tulle.”

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