Oleg Cassini & Grace Kelly, a Fashion(able) Love Affair

22 Dec

Grace Kelly & Oleg Cassini

Who was Oleg Cassini?

Oleg Cassini (April 11, 1913 – March 17, 2006) was a French-born American fashion designer. Cassini dressed numerous stars creating some of the most memorable moments in international fashion and film. He garnered admiration and fame for his designs for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

His designs for the First Lady, ‘The Jackie Look’ are recognized as being the “single biggest fashion influence in history” by film costume designer, Edith Head. Cassini’s contemporary designs such as the A-line, Sheath and the Empire Strapless continue to remain influential and predominant today. His passions including sports and Native American culture fueled his work with freshness and imagination, creating innovative looks fueled by his very personal feeling that: “To be well dressed is a little like being in love.”

Jackie Kennedy & Oleg Cassini

Jackie Kennedy & Oleg Cassini
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More about Oleg Cassini for Jackie Kennedy:   https://agnautacouture.com/2013/10/27/jackie-kennedy-the-presidential-wardrobe/

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Grace Kelly in her Oscar gown by Oleg Cassini

The Love Affair

Grace Kelly was with Jean-Pierre Aumont, trying to get over the loss of Ray Milland when she met Oleg Cassini. Cassini had recently seen Grace Kelly in the film Mogambo and was already besotted when he spied her in a restaurant in New York. She was with Aumont whom Oleg Cassini already knew (they had competed for the love of Gene Tierney in the past). According to Oleg, when they met, Grace dressed ‘like a school teacher’. He encouraged her to ‘put a little sex in her clothes’. Cassini was something of a Casanova, an ‘accomplished seducer’ he set his sights on winning Grace’s heart and did so in typical fashion. ‘It was to be the greatest, most exhilarating campaign of my life.‘ He remarked later.

Cassini set about developing a plan of seduction which involved sending a dozen red roses to Grace’s home for ten days, he did not sign the card, instead he wrote ‘from the friendly florist’ on the tenth day he called her saying he was the friendly florist. He got her laughing and got her to join him on a date (she was chaperoned by her sister on this occasion).

Grace Kelly & Oleg Cassini

Grace Kelly & Oleg Cassini

Grace told Oleg she was in love with Ray Milland. The silver-tongued and confident Aries told her it was not a problem and that she would be engaged to him within a year. Grace left for LA the next day, but Oleg made sure he was seen by gossip columnists in the company of beauties such as Pier Angeli and Anita Ekberg in order that he would be seen and read about by Grace in their columns.

They eventually met up again on the French Riviera where they spent an evening together in what Oleg describes as a ‘distressingly platonic’ situation. He poured out his heart to Grace, declared the essence of his inner desires and that was it, his persistence paid off.

Oleg & Grace

Oleg Cassini & Grace Kelly

Oleg Cassini’s biggest obstacle to life-long happiness with Grace Kelly was his past (he had been married before and linked with many beautiful women) which caused a problem for Grace’s mother who considered Oleg a bad risk for a husband. Her father, who was an old-fashioned racist, considered Cassini to be too much of a foreigner (Oleg was a son of a Russian and born in Paris).

Grace was persuaded not to marry designer Oleg by her mother and father. “Do you realise if my mother hadn’t been so difficult about Oleg Cassini, I probably would have married him?” the screen goddess is quoted as saying. Marrying into the Monaco royal family in 1956 was an apparent attempt to gain the approval of her father, who had failed to congratulate her on any of her past accomplishments, including the Oscar she was awarded for The Country Girl.

Once married, Grace realised that there was no way of continuing the Hollywood career that she had so loved and began to regret not choosing a marriage that would have allowed her to work. “How many wonderful roles I might have played by now?” she apparently lamented. “How might my life have turned out? That one decision (to marry Prince Rainier) changed my entire future.”

grace-kelly-engagement-set-keystone_v_14par10_PR_426x639

Grace Kelly 

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What Oleg Cassini had to say

Oleg, who never remarried, did let the regret tinge his voice when he talked about what might have been: “I fell in love with Grace after I saw her in Mogambo. When she broke up with Milland she sent me a postcard asking me to come to the south of France while she filmed To Catch a Thief. ‘Those who love me follow me,’ she wrote.

“Well, I let my dress collections go to hell, and I flew to Cannes. She was warm and funny and caring, also very disciplined about her work. She never stayed out past 11 p.m. Up till now our relationship had been platonic, but we had such a wonderful time that she asked me what my intentions were. I told her I wanted to marry her. We became secretly engaged.

sjcf_01_img0066Oleg Cassini with his wife actress Gene Tierney, 1941. 

“Later I saw sharks in the water. It was 1955, and Paris Match introduced Grace to Prince Rainier as a photo publicity stunt for a magazine article. I thought nothing of it. She said Rainier was nice, but that was it.

“We came back to New York and Grace was becoming a superstar. Neither of her parents liked me. The weekend I spent in Ocean City was the worst of my life. I had my own room, but I had to walk through her parents’ bedroom to get there.

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Grace Kelly & Oleg Cassini

“She kept seeing me despite her family’s opposition, even suggesting we get married right away. She told me to find a priest who would marry us. I agreed, but then she got sick and rundown. Once she recovered, she had changed her mind. Her parents had talked her out of it. I didn’t see her again until she called to tell me she was engaged to Prince Rainier.”

 350x500_Grace-Kelly-wedding
350x500_grace-kelly-wedding-1Grace Kelly on her wedding day with Prince Rainier. 

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Books by Oleg Cassini

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The Wedding Dress

The quintessential book on the wedding dress, newly revised and updated in a collector’s edition, is an exciting look at the variety of luxurious wedding dresses, which both celebrates and reveals their beauty, sophistication, and romance.   From Jacqueline Kennedy to Grace Kelly, Oleg Cassini’s designs are synonymous with the world’s most glamorous women. The same electrifying elegance resonates with his magnificently crafted bridal gowns. This informative presentation discusses every aspect of the wedding dress—the ultimate expression of a bride’s personality and the focal point of her day. This book showcases a wide range of styles by such fashion luminaries as Cassini, Chanel, Dior, Armani, and McQueen, among others. The beautiful fashions, photographed by such notable photographers as Patrick Demarchelier, Benno Graziani, Horst, Arthur Elgort, Milton Greene, David LaChapelle, and Irving Penn capture the effervescent spirit that is associated with the wedding dress. The Wedding Dress begins with an overview of the sumptuous wedding gown, chronicling its history  from royal weddings to today’s celebrities. The book presents a variety of silhouettes—from elegant Empire-style floor-length gowns to flirty short dresses and sophisticated suits. The same electrifying elegance resonates, whether an informal ceremony, a formal evening affair or a spontaneous trip to City Hall. Also featured are some of the best weddings in the world, including celebrity, society, and high fashion weddings. This stylish look at the wedding dress is not only an essential resource for the bride-to-be but for everyone interested in fashion.

http://www.amazon.com/Wedding-Dress-Revised-Updated-Collectors/dp/0847841820/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387464881&sr=1-2&keywords=the+wedding+dress+by+oleg+cassini

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Book cover

A Thousand Days of Magic: Dressing Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House    

A gorgeously revised edition of this fashion favorite book, which combines Cassini’s memoirs of working closely with Jacqueline Kennedy during her brief White House years, his fashion philosophies and ideas, and the iconography of the early 1960s style and energy of the Kennedy years.  Jacqueline Kennedy’s selection of Oleg Cassini to design her personal wardrobe as First Lady was not only fashion history, but political history as well. As the creator of the “Jackie look,” Cassini made the First Lady one of the best-dressed women in the world and a glamorous icon of the Kennedy era.

During the 1000 days of the Kennedy administration, Cassini designed over 300 outfits for Jackie Kennedy—coats, dresses, evening gowns, suits, and day wear—and coordinated every aspect of her wardrobe, from shoes and hats to gloves and handbags. In this book, Cassini offers a fascinating and comprehensive view of his role as Jackie’s personal couturier, a position that allowed him unprecedented access to both Jackie and John Kennedy as a designer and a trusted friend. From the details of his first meetings with the First Lady to his thoughts on Jackie’s clothes and their legacy, Cassini’s recollections are far-ranging and informative. Also included are Cassini’s original sketches accompanied by 200 color and black-and-white photographs of the First Lady as she tours India, France, England, and Italy, shows off the White House, and hosts state dinners and family gatherings. Public moments as well as private ones capture the great elegance and charm of one of the most admired and emulated women in the world.

http://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Days-Magic-Dressing-Jacqueline/dp/0847819000

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Grace KellyGrace Kelly

2 Responses to “Oleg Cassini & Grace Kelly, a Fashion(able) Love Affair”

  1. amylynniebug 26 February 2017 at 06:45 #

    Hello,
    Oleg Cassini did not make the dress that Grace wore the evening she was awarded “Best Actress” for 1954’s “Country Girl”, Edith Head made the dress and the matching coat. There are many photos and the lady’s own quotes to back this up. (One with Grace holding the fabric they chose together standing with Ms Head in her office)
    YES Oleg had much influence in dressing Grace, she hated clothes and shopping, and he had a wonderful “eye” and made beautiful clothing. He sort of got her out of her rut of “looking like a meek librarian”, and added more dresses with Peter Pan collars and full skirts with tiny waists to her wardrobe. The dress she wears for the Premiere of one of her pictures with Mr Hitchcock is gorgeous and there are many photos of Grace with Oleg from that evening.
    She did wear her beautiful “Oscar Dress” on at least two dates with Mr Cassini, but no, he did not deign nor make the dress and matching coat. He did get to admire her in it a few times though 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Is there a case for Grace of Monaco as what George Orwell might have called a good bad movie ?? - Counterweights - 13 July 2015

    […] III with Gisèle Pascal, the young Grace Kelly had  her own earlier contemplated marriage, to the French-born American fashion designer Oleg Cassinni.  Her parents persuaded her to abandon the engagement. (Among other things, Cassinni was 16 years […]

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