Oleg Cassini, Couturier to the White House

Born in Paris to Russian aristocracy, Oleg Cassini began his career as a costume designer for Paramount Pictures in 1941. He worked for Hollywood's major film studios, dressing Rita Hayworth, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe and many more of the industry's most glamorous stars.

Oleg Cassini designed the costumes for Gene Tierney's starring role in The Shanghai Gesture, a 1941 film with Walter Huston and Victor Mature.

Gene Tierney wearing red dress in True Glo makeup advertisement
Gene Tierney
Tru Glo Ad
In a 1979 interview on The Mike Douglas Show, Tierney states she first saw Oleg Cassini at the Mocambo nightclub while she was still quite young. She later met him at a party and thought him very charming. They married on June 1, 1941. Although they divorced, she said they remained good friends.

After serving in the cavalry during WWII, Cassini moved to New York to design ready to wear clothing. His own fashion brand opened to rave reviews with major department stores such as
Lord & Taylor featuring his chic styles. He thought it important to make a fashionable and affordable clothing line available for the average woman.

Oleg Cassini Design 1954
Robert McBratney & Co.
Courtesy of My Vintage Vogue
Shortly before her wedding to John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy met Oleg Cassini. He quickly became one of Mrs. Kennedy's favored designers.

Cassini's stature in the design world increased tremendously in 1962 when Jacqueline Kennedy appointed him as her exclusive couturier. He and Hubert de Givenchy would remain Kennedy's designers of choice and were responsible for defining her signature style and elevating her to an international fashion icon.

Beige wool crep dress with short overblouse displayed on mannequin. Mrs Kennedy wore this Oleg Cassini design to inaugural ceremonies
Oleg Cassini 1961 Overblouse Dress
Worn by Jacqueline Kenendy to Inaugural  Ceremonies January 21, 1961
John F. Kennedy Library

Beige wool crepe dress with overblouse worn by Mrs. Kennedy to the January 20, 1961 inaugural ceremonies. Cassini preferred a formfitting silhouette rather than the traditional A-line designs of that era.

Celedon green long evening gown designed by Oleg Cassini and worn by Mrs Kennedy to White House Dinner
Oleg Cassini 1961
John F. Kennedy Library

The celedon green evening gown featured above was designed by Oleg Cassini in silk jersey for  Mrs. Kennedy to wear in 1962 to a White House Dinner honoring Nobel Laureates of the Western Hemisphere. 

Apricot colored belted and sleeveless silk dress designed by Oleg Cassini and worn by Mrs. Kennedy on boat ride in India
Oleg Cassini 1962
John F Kennedy Library

Although the sleeveless, knee-length dress shown above is elegant enough to be worn to a cocktail party, Mr. Cassini designed the Silk Zibeline day dress for The First Lady's visit to India's White Palace.

The fabric was rigid enough to maintain its composure in India's heat and the color and sheen ensured Mrs. Kennedy could be seen from the distant shores as she disembarked from the boat.

Oleg Cassini is quoted as saying, "The First Lady must be a leader. She must not be a follower."

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