overview

Between May 1959 and early 1964, fashion designer Arnold Scaasi used this building, which he owned, as his design studio, showrooms, and residence.

Scaasi would later gain worldwide attention when Barbra Streisand wore one of his most infamous designs to the 1969 Academy Awards.

Header Photo

Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

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History

Arnold Scaasi (1930-2015) is best known for his evening wear designs worn by first ladies, socialites, and celebrities primarily during the 1960s through 1980s. Before Scaasi was 30, he won the prestigious Coty Fashion Critic’s Award for best designer of the year and his designs were covered in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. In 1954 he reversed the spelling of his Jewish last name (Isaacs) to give it a more European flair, which was better for business in the 1950s, and two years later launched his own ready-to-wear house garnering immediate notice.

In 1959, Scaasi began showing his extravagant and influential ready-to-wear collections at his residence at 26 West 56th Street. The lavishly redecorated rooms were styled by fashionable interior designer Valerian Rybar. The New York Times reported that the lush interior included “velvet-pillowed divans, velvet draperies and even velvet-covered bannisters in terra cotta tone…Chandeliers sparkle in the room.” Scaasi lived on the top two floors of the building; he previously worked out of a tenement building on East 58th Street and prior to this address lived for two years at 45 West 57th Street. Scaasi made a practice of presenting his fashions at night, having the press and buyers dress up in formal attire, and providing his guests with champagne, sipped to the strains of violin music.

Scaasi gained worldwide attention in 1969 when Barbra Streisand wore one of his most infamous designs – a Peter Pan-collared sheer pantsuit with bell bottoms – to the Oscars and picked up her best lead actress award for Funny Girl. In 1996, Scaasi was given the Lifetime Achievement award by the Fashion Council of America.

Scaasi met Parker Ladd in New York City in 1962 and the two were married in 2011 at a lavish celebration at Le Cirque.

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