Arnold Scaasi: Vogue Patterns

Mary Jane Russell wears Scaasi on the cover of Vogue's Christmas issue, 1955. Photographed by Richard Rutledge
A Scaasi design on the cover of Vogue, December 1955. Photo: Richard Rutledge. Model: Mary Jane Russell. Image: tumblr.

In celebration of Canada Day, this post is dedicated to the late Arnold Scaasi.

Deborah Dixon in Scaasi earrings, 1960
Scaasi earrings on the cover of Vogue, November 15, 1960. Photo: Bert Stern. Model: Deborah Dixon. Image: flickr.

Arnold Scaasi (1930-2015) was born in Montreal as Arnold Isaacs. (Scaasi is Isaacs backwards—depending who you ask, the designer changed his name either to sound more Italian or less Jewish.) His father was a furrier, his mother had studied opera, and his glamorous, Schiaparelli-loving Aunt Ida was an early inspiration. He studied in Montreal and Paris, at the Cotnoir-Capponi school and the Chambre Syndicale, then worked at Paquin and Charles James in New York before launching his own business in 1956.

Scaasi was best known for his opulent evening wear, custom-made for society and celebrity clients who appreciated the drama of his sculptural silhouettes, luxurious materials, and flamboyant use of colour. In 2002, the Museum at FIT mounted the retrospective Scaasi: Exuberant Fashion and, following his retirement in 2010, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston hosted Scaasi: American Couturier, an exhibition structured around his couture clients.

Scaasi label, ca. 1959
Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Scaasi lost no time in pursuing pattern licensing. These Scaasi Spadea patterns date to 1956:

Scaasi evening skirt available as a Spadea pattern, Life June 4, 1956. Photo: Sharland
Scaasi evening skirt available as a Spadea pattern, LIFE magazine, June 4, 1956. Photo: Sharland. Image: LIFE archive.
Scaasi jacket available as a Spadea pattern, LIFE June 4, 1956. Photo: Sharland
Scaasi jacket available as a Spadea pattern, LIFE magazine, June 4, 1956. Photo: Sharland. Image: LIFE archive.
Scaasi housecoat available as a Spadea pattern, <em>LIFE magazine</em>, June 4, 1956. Photo: Sharland
Scaasi housecoat available as a Spadea pattern, LIFE magazine, June 4, 1956. Photo: Sharland. Image: LIFE archive.

A few decades later, Claire Shaeffer covered Scaasi’s couture techniques for Threads magazine:

A Scaasi gown on the cover of Threads magazine, holiday 1991
A Scaasi gown on the cover of Threads 38 (December/January 1991-92) Photo: Yvonne Taylor. Image: eBay.

It was only in the early 1990s that Scaasi licensed his work with Vogue Patterns. The designer was introduced in the November/December 1993 issue of Vogue Patterns with three patterns. The first, Vogue 1285, is a low-backed cocktail or evening dress with sheer contrast:

1990s Scaasi formal dress pattern Vogue 1285
Vogue 1285 by Scaasi (1993) Image: Etsy.

This formal ensemble includes two-layer palazzo pants for chiffon or georgette and a top for scalloped lace:

1990s Scaasi evening suit pattern Vogue 1286
Vogue 1286 by Scaasi (1993) Image: Etsy.

Vogue 1287 is a collarless skirt suit with caftan-style side slits:

1990s Scaasi skirt suit pattern Vogue 1287
Vogue 1287 by Scaasi (1993) Image: Etsy.

From spring, 1994, this dress is shaped by long darts in front and back and trimmed with a flounce:

1990s Scaasi dress pattern Vogue 1357
Vogue 1357 by Scaasi (1994) Image: Pinterest.

Finally, Vogue 1377’s dress has a boned bodice and slightly off-the-shoulder neckline. The original’s striped fabric was cut on a creative layout:

1990s Arnold Scaasi striped dress pattern Vogue 1377
Vogue 1377 by Scaasi (1994) Image: Etsy.

(Seldom seen, but there is a copy at Sew Exciting Needleworks.)

In 1991, Scaasi told The Canadian Press, “When I left Canada some 30 years ago, there was no room for creative talent in dress design. At that time, the only way to really make it was to go to the United States.” A New Yorker from 1951, he met his partner, Parker Ladd, on Central Park South in the early 1960s; they married in 2011.

For more on Scaasi, see the obituaries in The New York Times, the Montreal Gazette, and WWD.

Opening image Scaasi ID thanks to Kickshaw Productions.

Short, red evening coat and bubble-hem dress in a silk polka dot print by Scaasi, 1958 (as 1961)
Evening ensemble by Arnold Scaasi for Arlene Francis, 1958. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

3 thoughts on “Arnold Scaasi: Vogue Patterns

  1. Such a talented designer who deserves to be better known. All the designs you show are classics and supremely flattering shapes. Thanks so much for this superbly informed piece. I’m inspired to go out to find out more about Scaasi now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.