Designer Arnold Scaasi, Who Catered to Hollywood Legends and First Ladies, Dies at 85

Arnold Scaasi, the Montreal-born designer, whose glamorous creations were worn by Hollywood legends, first ladies and society swans, died in New York on Tuesday. He was 85 years old.

Scassi, a designer who favoured embellishment, was known for his lavish use of ruffles, fur, glittering beads, fringe, ruffles and bows.

“Clothes with some adornment are more interesting to look at and more fun to wear,” he once declared.

One of his most prominent creations was a sheer bell-bottomed pantsuit worn by Barbra Streisand when she won the Best Actress Oscar in 1969 for Funny Girl.

But it wasn’t just theatrical types who seek his special brand of glamour. He also knew how to rein in the outrageous drama of his clothes by making gowns for such auspicious events as presidential inaugurations. Barbara Bush wore a Scaasi gown in velvet to George Bush’s inauguration.

Other notables who were fans of his work included Mary Tyler Moore, Elizabeth Taylor, Ivana Trump and Mamie Eisenhower.

Born in Montreal as Arnold Martin Isaacs, the son of a furrier, he flipped the spelling of his last name to Scaasi.

He studied at Montreal’s Cotnoir-Capponi School of Design and the Paris Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne before moving to New York City and working with the legendary American designer Charles James.

He is survived by his partner of more than 50 years, Parker Ladd.

Click below to see a slideshow of some of Scaasi’s looks!



Original caption: Inaugural Ball. Barbara Bush, wife of President George Bush, dances in a full-length gown, at the Inaugural Ball. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
Barbara Bush at the 1989 Presidential inaugural ball in a velvet and silk satin gown by Arnold Scaasi. The First Lady so loved the gown, she was reportedly reluctant to donate it to the Smithsonian Institution.
Caption:41ST ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS - Backstage Coverage - Airdate: April 14, 1969. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) BARBRA STREISAND, WINNER BEST ACTRESS FOR 'FUNNY GIRL' (SHARED WITH KATHARINE HEPBURN FOR 'THE LION IN WINTER') PREMIUM ACCESS ADD TO BOARDDate created:April 14, 1969Editorial #: 472891486 Restrictions:Contact your local office for all commercial or promotional uses.TABLOIDS OUT; NO BOOK PUBLISHING WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL; NO ARCHIVE; NO RESALELicence type:Rights-managed Collection:Disney ABC Television GroupMax file size:2,451 x 3,600 px (20.75 x 30.48 cm) - 300 dpi - 2.75 MBRelease info:Not released.More informationSource:Disney ABC Television GroupObject name:1837_0003 Search results
Barbra Streisand in 1969 where she won the Best Actress Oscar for Funny Girl. This transparent outfit – outrageous by the day’s standards – by Arnold Scaasi garnered him international attention.
Scassi with a few socialites, which he referred to as ‘Scassi Girls.’
Scaasi's trademark exuberance, opulence and more-is-more aesthetic was completely in-sync with the bigger-is-better zeitgeist of the All American Fifties. Witness his 1959 silk damask gown for Mrs. Eisenhower, specially created for a dinner with Soviet premier Nikita Krushchev; Scaasi reputedly recommended gold to be worn in order to symbolize the United States' wealth and power.
Mamie Eisenhower in an Arnold Scaasi gown in 1959. The designer reportedly recommended the gold colour in order to symbolize the United States’ wealth and power.
First Lady Laura Bush wearing Arnold Scaasi at a state dinner in 2001.
Another First Lady, Laura Bush, wearing Arnold Scaasi to a state dinner in 2001.
NEW YORK - MAY 3:  Arnold Scaasi and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) pose backstage for the 20th Anniversary Celebration of "Literacy Partners", where famous authors and politicians read selected readings to promote literacy May 3, 2004 in New York City.  (Photo by Scott Eells/Getty Images)
The designer with Senator Hillary Clinton in 2003 at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Literacy Partners.
Gayfryd Steinberg, Arnold Scaasi and guest during "The Ten Treasures" Benefit Dinner at New York Public Library in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
The designer with socialite, Gayfryd Steinberg and guest.