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Cassini on Kennedy : Designer Who Dressed Jackie for the White House Remembers ‘A Thousand Days of Magic’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“In one exquisite moment, Jackie Kennedy became the epitome of glamour and elegance--the uncrowned queen of America.

--Oleg Cassini

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Fashion designer Oleg Cassini oozed charm as he spoke Tuesday night with an Orange County audience about his new book, “A Thousand Days of Magic: Dressing Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House.”

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“I wanted to create a book that was a true recognition of what she had accomplished in creating Camelot,” he said by phone from New York. Cassini designed more than 300 silhouettes for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis during the 1,000 days of the Kennedy Administration.

“She single-handedly created Camelot . . . an American Versailles,” Cassini told a small group gathered in Irvine for a formal dinner to preview a new lecture series for the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace.

“She wanted the best of everything--from the furniture, to the food, to the notable artists from other countries that she entertained. It was an international paradise.”

The Paris-born designer will discuss “A Thousand Days of Magic” (Rizzoli International Publications, $40), a pictorial memoir, at the Yorba Linda library on Sept. 28, when he will also present the world premiere of his Kennedy Collection--accompanied by music from “Camelot,” of course--sponsored by Bullock’s, Costa Mesa. The line features evening wear, dresses and suits--all designed with Jackie in mind.

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Other lecturers scheduled for “Dressing the First Lady: Dialogue with the Designers” are Joan Rains (Oct. 26), daughter of designer Adele Simpson--whose fashion house created clothing for Pat Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson and Barbara Bush--and David Hayes (Nov. 8), a favorite designer of Nancy Reagan’s.

With the fashion galaxy’s return to a Jackie-brand of classicism--Calvin Klein’s A-line dress, Versace’s “Jackie-pink” boxy suit, Ralph Lauren’s elegant one-shoulder gown--it was a natural for Cassini to join the bandwagon.

“If other designers are busy creating the Jackie Kennedy look, who could do it better than the one who created it?” asked Cassini, 82, who also designs glitz-edged evening wear for women under the label Black Tie.

Cassini asked the guests gathered in the Presidential Suite at the Hyatt Regency Irvine--including the library’s assistant director Kevin Cartwright, first lady historian Carl Anthony and vintage fashion collector Charles Kleibacker--to not think of his Orange County visit strictly in commercial terms.

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“I’m not coming there expecting to do a lot of commerce,” he said. “I have tried in my own limited way to fight all of those books about Jackie that are a disgrace . . . that distort truth.

“I have despised so much these commercial books. My book has nothing to do with that. It is a coffee table book, a pictorial book, a beautiful book. I am very proud of it.”


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