Galanos Standouts: James Galanos on Fashion Icons

At this year’s Oscars, Celine Dion was rescued from red carpet purgatory by an oh-so-chic celadon-hued vintage James Galanos design. Compared to her previous Academy Awards outfits, the gracefully wrapped halter gown was a revelation of tastefulness.

Now stars from Jessica Alba and Renee Zelwegger to Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes are rocking vintage Galanos at parties and premieres on both coasts.

But this is a renaissance for the sartorially elegant and relentlessly modern Galanos. He has been dressing stars since his splashy debut in the ’50s.

Here are some of his favorites and thoughts on their glam-appeal:

Rosalind Russell — “What a divine comedian. She was one of the most stylish stars of her time. She had modeled. She was 5 foot 9. She adored clothes and really knew how to wear them. We were very close.”

Nancy Reagan — “She had access to all these designers in Europe, but she always chose something of mine. She’s small, you know. She’s 5 foot 4, but the proportions are good. Everything fit her well.”

Diana Ross — “She wanted to meet me, but I told her that I don’t do theatrical clothes for the stage. Bob Mackie did that for her, and he did a wonderful job. But she said she had bought some of my clothes in New York and she wanted to meet me while she was in L.A. When I saw her, she had her hair pulled back, very little makeup. She picked the quietest and most elegant black dress in the whole collection. She really picked out some fine-looking clothes. It was a revelation. You know, the samples fit her like a dream. She has many, many different looks. All the really big stars do.”

Marlene Dietrich — “She needed a special dress. I think it was beige chiffon and sleeveless. She was very nice and very easy to work with.”

Dorothy Lamour — “I think it was when she was doing a singing tour. I did the evening clothes for that.”

Judy Garland — “Richard Avedon was doing her TV show, and he called me and asked if I could do one costume. She only wore two things. One was a tuxedo jacket. And then I did a black jersey bodysuit with chiffon over it, and it was slashed and piped in satin with a chiffon scarf. I would go to her home with all the fitters and she was never, ever on time.”

Loretta Young — “She had a dreamboat of a figure, and she was a real fashion horse. She would buy my samples — like 25 to 45 pieces — because she was tall and slim like a model.”

Ali McGraw — “Steve McQueen really liked her in my designs. He really liked this jersey gown I did for her so much he said, ‘Why don’t you buy two?’ But what I like about her is that she really had her own style.”

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