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The memoirs of Oleg Cassini

mack11211

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Dear Folks: Last week, for no particular reason, I read the autobiography of Oleg Cassini. Cassini had a rich life: he married Gene Tierney, romanced Grace Kelly, and dated countless others. He was in the clothing business for almost 70 years. His highest point was the early 60s, when he designed all of the clothing Jackie Kennedy wore during her White House years. His menswear notes included boldly colored shirts for men and other things that made the sixties the sixties. Now he is known for a lot of mass-market licensed goods. The memoirs themselves, though probably ghostwritten, are rich in both emotional sensitivity and sartorial detail. Some passages are worth transcribing here. Cassini himself had an odd face that he grew into. He had broad shoulders and a narrow waist (in his 30s, it was 29 inches, as he notes). Weighed about 160, and was extremely well tailored throughout his life. The book was published in 1987, when he was over 70, but he lived almost two decades more, passing in 2006, aged 92. He credited his Mediterranean diet and aggressive athleticism for preserving him as well as he was. Cassini around 1960:
Cassini signing books at Lord & Taylor in the last year of his life: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/..._slide_06b.jpg FIRST EXCERPT: Cassini was born in Paris, in 1913. "My father was employed, at the time, in the pursuit of pleasure; that was his occupation. He was Count Alexander Loiewski, the son of a very successful Russian lawyer who specialized in finding lost heirs to great fortunes. He was short, about five feet eight inches, with handsome, even features that I did not inherit. He spent much of his time either eating or preparing to be fed. He would consult with restaurants about their menus in advance and then loiter three or four hours over a meal, return home for a nap, and awaken in time to eat again. "His other primary occupation was going to the tailor, an event of the utmost seriousness: fittings might continue for hours. He was quite a dandy and practically lived at Charvet in Paris, where he bought shirts and ties. His shoes were made by Loeb, and his suits by Brandoni of Milan. He owned several hundred shirts, all of them in silk of various colors. Later, in the 1960s, when I created a revolution in men's fashion by reintroducing colored shirts, it was from memories of Father's wardrobe. He would send the shirts, fifty at a time to London for laundering. He also claimed to own 552 ties. ... "A very fastidious man, a fanatic about hygiene, always formally dressed, even in our most desperate moments of poverty. If he removed his jacket, it was replaced by a silk robe. He was a man of great dignity, even in despair."
 

mack11211

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From the mid twenties through the early thirties, he was in Florence, where his mother established a successful fashion house.

At the start of the decade, Cassini was a young university student who spent most of his time putting the make on American college girls, who were judged superior to the domestic variety.

"In any case, we were convinced that Italian men were better-looking than their female counterparts, although both men and women devoted much time to making themselves more presentable. We dressed impeccably. We talked about fashion continually. To dress well was a ritual and a passion; to dress well was like being in love. We shopped. We spent whole afternoons shopping, but not as it is done today. It was an entirely different sort of experience - Socratic, almost religious, an extended negotiation over the most basic details: fabric, cut, stitching. We were the architects of our experience; we supervised each new suit the way an architect guides the construction of a building. If I was going to have a new pair of shoes made, I would visit Gucci the cobbler - who later achieved international success, but at that time had only a small shop in Florence - and he would produce various leathers for me, which we would consider together. We would then discuss style and construction, for he made the best moccasins in Italy; several weeks later, a finished pair of made-to-order shoes would be delivered. This as also true of Zanobetti, who sold fine Borsalino hats and silk shirts, and Franchi the tailor (I bought two conservatively cut suits a year), and Old England, where we purchased sweaters and tweeds, the only ready-to-wear items we bought. We did nothing in life as well, or as studiously, as we dressed.
\t"I suppose the reason we went to such lengths to entertain ourselves is that there wasn't much else to do in Florence..."
 

brlfvr

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Are you sure that photo is from the last year of his life? He doesn't look 92. If he is signing his book it's probably from the year the book was released right? Just wonderign because if he's 92 in that photo I would be amazed.
 

romafan

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Jackie O was big into Cassini.

When I lived in the neighborhood I used to walk by his house (pied 'd terre?) almost every day. It's on the north side of Block Beautiful (19th Street btwn Irving & Third), an elegant converted carriage house with the Cassini 'horses' featured on the entranceway. It's the house in the upper left....

http://www.nyc-architecture.com/GRP/GRP001.htm

* I blieve that pix was taken in 1960
 

mack11211

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brlfvr;1398833 said:
Are you sure that photo is from the last year of his life? He doesn't look 92. If he is signing his book it's probably from the year the book was released right? Just wonderign because if he's 92 in that photo I would be amazed.[/QUOTE

In the multimedia feature for his times obit, the pic was dated 2005. But the book he is signing came out a decade earlier, in 1995.

Still, for 81 he's looking pretty good.

Sunglasses or glasses with strong frames are a useful accessory for the older person (cf, in addition to Cassini, Swifty Lazar, Peggy Lee, Phillip Johnson, Roy Orbison, etc.).
 

brlfvr

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We should all hope to look that good and put together at 81. I'm sure money and lifestyle helped.
 

LabelKing

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His father had the ideal occupation.

It sounds like an ancestor of mine whose daily schedule revolved around what we would call spas today and high-end restaurants. He was a landlord who had moved into the city of Shanghai; income, of course, came from oppressing the serfs.
 

meister

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Originally Posted by LabelKing
income, of course, came from oppressing the serfs.

Is there any other way...????
 

mack11211

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In the forties, while Cassini was married to Gene Tierney, he caught the eye of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, who was also Mrs. Cary Grant. She said she was ready to divorce.

Grant asked to meet him.

“I met with Cary Grant for lunch. He was wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and regimental tie; he was impeccable, as always. I will say that I have met many charming people in my life, people who used their charm in powerful ways (like President Kennedy), people who have been cleverly, diabolically, sensually charming (like Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power). But none was more charming than Cary Grant. He seemed almost a force of nature; it was dazzling. He said, 'Oleg, I understand Barbara thinks the world of you. You know, we are having problems. I hope you don’t have any interest in her personally, because frankly that would be a terrible blow to me. Now, if I can trust you, if I am sure there is no romantic interest there, if I’m convinced you are a friend, I will ask you to do me a favor – intercede on my behalf. Be a peacemaker. Please tell her to be reasonable.'
\t
“Without knowing how or why, I was nodding my head, agreeing to act as a go-between in their marriage. As I said, the man was quite charming.
\t
“ Barbara and I met for tea at her home a day or so later. I told her about my lunch with Cary. ‘He’s an extraordinary man,’ I said. ‘You should give him another chance.’”
 

Baron

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^^^
That's such a good story that I'm ready to go out and buy the book.
 

mack11211

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"There was a small Italian restaurant on the West Side of Palm Beach that was very popular in the 1950s. It had a wine celler that was a favorite hideaway of my dear friend Porfirio Rubirosa, who was perhaps the greatest playboy of our time.

Rubi would utilize the cellar in this manner: he might say to his date, "˜I want to see if there is a wine in this place that might be drinkable...my dear, why don't you come with me?'

And there, amid the musty bottles (and the potential intrusion of the wine steward), he would make his move, and almost invariably succeed."
 

mack11211

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Cassini knew Rubirosa well, in Palm Beach and Deaville and New York, but especially in Paris, when he was on his last wife, Odile Rodin. Rubirosa’s motto was “toujours prêt” (always ready). “Rubi lived like a pasha and had the most incredible schedule. He had transformed one of the rooms in this house into a boxing ring., and first thing in the morning, he would go there and par several rounds with a professional boxer. After a shower and breakfast, he might play some polo – he was a low ranked player but well mounted – or go shopping with Odile. In the afternoon, his coterie would begin to gather; invariably, there were younger men who surrounded Rubi, seeking to learn his secrets or just enjoy his lifestyle. They would arrange the evening’s entertainment for his amusement. Eventually, Rubi would ask, ‘So, what do we do tonight? Let’s do something interesting.’ …. [Dinner, a nightclub, a late night cafÃ
…] “We would eat, and have another drink, and talk. Rubi could appear to be entirely saturated with alcohol and still perform socially, and more important to him, sexually. More than one night I said to myself, He’s gone. He’s had enough. “And Rubi would be saying, ‘No, let’s have one more glass of champagne. The night is young, eh, Oleg? Are you kidding? Que personne ne bouge.’ (‘I don’t want anyone to move.’) “He would not return home until dawn, and then he would sleep the entire next day. That was how he lived: one day off and one day on. It was one of his secrets, a regimen strictly maintained. You could not call Rubi on the day of rest. Everything was dark. No sound; nothing. He relaxed himself totally, preparing for the next performance. I never saw the man tired or haggard.”
 

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