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.

See Stop the Hate Radio Actions at the Spanish Broadcasting System Headquarters for more information on this site’s LGBT history.

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

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 RybarThe 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.

See Stop the Hate Radio Actions at the Spanish Broadcasting System Headquarters for more information on this site’s LGBT history.

Entry by Ken Lustbader, project director (March 2017).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Harry Allan Jacobs (remodeled façade)
  • Year Built: 1907-08 (remodeled façade)

Sources

  1. Alexandra Jacobs, “Arnold Scaasi Dies at 85; Dressed Stars and Socialites,” The New York Times, August 4, 2015.

  2. “American Collections: 7th Avenue Frenzy for Fall Nears End,” The New York Times, June 11, 1959.

  3. “American Collections: Ebullient Designer With Sense of Drama,” The New York Times, June 10, 1960.

  4. “American Collections: Scaasi Designs Draw Crowd’s Bravos,” The New York Times, November 11, 1960.

  5. Arnold Scaasi, Women I’ve Dressed (and Undressed) (Scribner: 2004).

  6. Gale Harris, E. Hayward and Amelia Parsons Ferry House Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 2009).

  7. “Investor Takes East Parcel,” The New York Times, June 17, 1959.

  8. Nan Robertson, “Scaasi a Diminutive Man, But Thinks in Big Terms,” The New York Times, June 10, 1959.

  9. Scaasi American Couturier. Museum of Fine Arts Boston, bit.ly/2dKZrWZ.

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