Her favorite designer, Scaasi, says she knows what looks good on her _ and he wouldn't change a thing.
Byline: Genevieve Buck.
SO CHICAGO TRIBUNE (TRIB)
Edition: NORTH SPORTS FINAL
LP Though Barbara Bush wears clothes by other designers, Arnold Scaasi has come to be known as her favorite because it was he who created her "Barbara Blue" inaugural gown and because it is he who continues to make many of her dressy clothes and glamorous evening gowns. But he makes it absolutely clear right at the beginning of a conversation that, first, fashion is not her priority and, second, there'll be no secrets revealed about her upcoming wardrobe because, as he so diplomatically puts it, "She seems not to like to have people know what she's going to wear before she appears in it."
TX He calls her "wonderful to work with because she's intelligent, has a great sense of humor and pokes fun at herself." But she's also very easy to work with, he maintains, because "she has very definite ideas about what looks good on her. She knows what she wants. She will say, `I need more short evening things or a wonderful dinner suit.' She wants to be able to take a jacket off and still look wonderful, like she did in the black suit I made for her with a white lace blouse. She wants that versatility." Scaasi says he wouldn't change anything about Mrs. Bush-not her hair, her size, anything-even if he could. "She is a tall woman-very tall, probably 5-8-and her proportions are very good." He says her size is somewhere between a 12 and a 14 (though a New York Times Magazine writer said that "an educated guess would put it more at 16"). No fuss, please "She has her own style, which is very down-to-earth and not frivolous. She doesn't like to fuss. She likes pretty clothes. She likes to look good. But I have a feeling that whatever thought she gives to clothes takes place early in the morning. Then it's forgotten." But, he says, he has noticed something about Mrs. Bush that has not surfaced previously in the two years that he has worked with her: "I never thought I'd be using this word, but I think she is looking very glamorous lately. I don't know how to explain it, but there's a quality of glamor I see in her now. You know, she is so wonderful in her job, and she has such a great time doing it, maybe that confidence and enjoyment are showing up in a new way." Glamor, of course, is practically Arnold Scaasi's middle name, so it should not be too surprising that he should see one of his favorite ladies in this particular aura. Status seekers He's the designer who stars with socialites and * celebrities-Princess Yasmin Aga Khan and Norris Church Mailer, among them-in an ad campaign called "Me and my Scaasi." He says: "It wasn't my idea. I didn't want to do it. But Peter Rogers had this idea and I finally asked three friends, then three more. Then it got to be kind of a status symbol. Charlotte Ford called and said, `I think it's kind of an insult that you didn't ask me. I've known you for 20 years-longer than the other girls.' So I asked her, too." He's also the designer whose homes have been featured in Architectural Digest and other magazines, showing his extensive art collection, including pieces by his friend, the late Louise Nevelson, and elaborately decorated rooms. And, yes, he's also the designer who can go to a posh New York gala and score the highest when it comes to counting women wearing his highly decorative dresses. His all-time high was two years ago at the annual early December ball benefiting the costume collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He says, beaming with satisfaction, "Forty-six. We counted 46 women wearing Scaasis!" Born and educated in Montreal, Scaasi knew early on that fashion would be a part of his life; he credits an aunt with whom he lived in Australia with influencing his choice of career. After graduating from the Chambre Syndicale school in Paris, he worked with legendary designer Charles James in New York before striking out on his own in the late '50s. Though his business flourished, he did the opposite of what other designers were doing in the "do your own thing" '60s and opened a couture salon. Star-studded clients It was during this time that he cultivated a social clientele for his made-to-order clothes that has included women such as Elizabeth Taylor, Brooke Astor, Danielle Steel, Barbara Sinatra, Joan Rivers, Barbara Walters, Barbra Streisand (who can forget the see-through jumpsuit he made for her for the '69 Oscars?), Ivana and Blaine Trump, Gayfryd Steinberg and, now, Barbara Bush. Princess Yasmin will be wearing a new couture gown when she comes to Chicago Friday for the Rita Hayworth Gala to benefit the Alzheimer's Association. But, since 1984, his "clients" have included ordinary folks as well; it was five years ago that he decided to expand his business to ready-to-wear and started Scaasi Boutique, a collection of late day and evening gowns. It was for the ready-to-wear collection for this fall season that Scaasi included a gown nearly identical to the original one Mrs. Bush wore for her husband's inauguration. Though some retailers and press gasped when they saw what seemed to be a duplicate on the runway, Scaasi says: "I knew it would be copied-by unnamed people, shall we say-so I asked her if I could copy it myself and make it available to everybody. She said okay. Now that the original is going to the Smithsonian, it's going to be copied even more and more women are going to want it, so we thought we'd do it ourselves. And, it's selling very well." Scaasi says he feels "everything is coming together right now. Working with Mrs. Bush is part of it," he admits, "but suddenly I'm doing all kinds of things." In addition to his twice-yearly couture and three boutique collections, his first fragrance was just launched in New York; he's working with Olga on a sleepwear collection to debut next spring; he's planning a women's shoe collection; and he hopes to do women's casual clothes and men's tailored clothing. "I went from working six months a year and partying and being bored to not even having 20 minutes to myself," he says. "I like it this way." CAPTION: PHOTO: AP Laserphoto. George and Barbara Bush (wearing her "Barbara Blue" Scaasi gown) at one of the inaugural balls. @Art:PHOTO
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