Jessica McClintock, 90, Dies; Dressed Generations in Lace and Satin


Jessica McClintock, a dressmaker whose romantic, lacy confections dressed generations of ladies for his or her weddings and proms, died on Feb. 16 at her house in San Francisco. She was 90.

The trigger was congestive coronary heart failure, stated her sister, Mary Santoro.

In 1969, Ms. McClintock was a newly divorced mom and had been educating science and music to sixth graders in Cupertino, Calif., when she invested $5,000 in a San Francisco costume enterprise referred to as Gunne Sax. (In creating the identify, the founders, Eleanor Bailey and Carol Miller, had riffed on the concept of a “sexy gunny sack,” in accordance with Vogue journal.)

Soon after, Ms. McClintock grew to become the only proprietor, designer and saleswoman. She had no design coaching, however she might sew.

Inspired by these she referred to as San Francisco’s “flower children,” she started making calico, lace and beribboned pastiches generally known as granny attire. It was a mode — just a little bit Victorian, just a little bit prairie — that hippies in the Haight-Ashbury part had popularized by placing collectively the wares of classic clothes shops.

Gunnes, as Ms. McClintock’s attire have been recognized, grew to become a cult merchandise, and Gunne Sax grew to become a wildly profitable enterprise. By the mid-1970s, the attire might be discovered in malls throughout the nation. For simply over $50 (the equal of about $250 as we speak), you may rating an ankle-length, cinched-bodice Victorian quantity on the Dillard’s at your native mall.

That is what a 27-year previous Hillary Rodham did for her wedding ceremony to Bill Clinton in October 1975 at their house in Fayetteville, Ark. She had accomplished her work for the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment case towards President Richard M. Nixon and had moved to Arkansas to be with Mr. Clinton whereas he ran, unsuccessfully, for a House seat. They each discovered work educating on the University of Arkansas School of Law.

(He had proposed to her twice earlier than and had twice been refused. The third time he requested, in early October, she relented. As she recalled in a cellphone interview, “Bill said, ‘Let’s hurry up and do it next week before you change your mind.’”)

Mrs. Clinton thought she would simply throw on a costume from her closet, however her mom, Dorothy Rodham, stated no means: She needed to put on one thing new for her wedding ceremony.

They headed to Dillard’s. “I saw this dress and fell in love with it,” Mrs. Clinton stated. “I felt acutely that it was meant to be. I couldn’t have done better if I’d been looking for a month. It fit my aesthetic and my sensibility. It was a kind of hippy Victorian, I loved the whole look of it, and I felt like the wedding gods were with me when I went shopping with my mom.”

Mrs. Clinton will not be the one political determine or superstar Ms. McClintock dressed for a particular occasion. Another is Representative Jackie Speier, who serves California’s 14th District, in the Bay Area. Ms. McClintock designed a marriage costume for her. (Ms. Speier referred to as her “the fashion designer for Democrats” due to her inclusive value factors, although Ms. McClintock was a registered Republican.)

Vanna White, who has made a profession out of elegantly flipping the letters on the sport present “Wheel of Fortune” clad in satiny sheaths, did so for a time in Jessica McClintock robes.

But Ms. McClintock’s bread and butter was additionally in gussying up younger girls for his or her proms and quinceañeras and even elementary faculty graduations, significantly in the heyday of the 70s, as they danced to Fleetwood Mac or Peter Frampton, their hair accomplished in Dorothy Hamill-style bobs.

As the many years marched alongside, so did Ms. McClintock’s types, from pale Victorians and Great Gatsby-esque satins in the 1970s to poofy silk taffeta in the ’80s to extra streamlined attire in iridescent silk in the ’90s and past.

In 1999, when her business, a personal firm, turned 30, gross sales have been at $140 million, in accordance with Women’s Wear Daily. She operated 26 shops across the nation, marketed a perfume, Jessica, and had licensing agreements for purses, jewellery, china, eyeglasses, bedding and house furnishings.

Jessie Earl Gagnon was born on June 19, 1930, in Presque Isle, in northern Maine. Her father, Rene Arthur Gagnon, was a salesman; her mom, Verna (Roberts) Gagnon, was a beautician. They divorced when Jessie was 2. Her mom, earlier than she grew to become a hairdresser, baked cookies and performed the piano in film theaters to make ends meet. Jessie discovered to stitch from her maternal grandmother, who cared for her for a time.

She was attending Boston University when she met Alston Frank Staples, a pupil on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After they married, Mr. Staples discovered work close to San Francisco growing a metallic used in rocketry, and Jessie earned her diploma in schooling at San Jose State University, taught in Cupertino and had a son, Scott, with Mr. Staples.

The boy was simply eight when Mr. Staples was killed in a visitors accident. She married his finest buddy, Fred McClintock, an Eastern Airlines pilot, and moved again East, however when the wedding failed she returned to California. Mr. McClintock had all the time referred to as her Jessica, and the identify caught.

Ms. McClintock grew to become the main focus of a bitter labor dispute in the early 1990s. When a former contractor for her firm went bankrupt and didn’t pay its seamstresses’ wages, labor activists declared her firm morally liable for his or her work, organized a boycott of her model and took out an advert in The New York Times with the headline “Let Them Eat Lace.”

The boycott lasted greater than three years, and Ms. McClintock obtained dying threats, stated Ms. Santoro, her sister, who was the corporate’s director of gross sales. The boycott ended in 1996, when Ms. McClintock signed an agreement with Asian Immigrant Women Advocates, a neighborhood group, to advertise honest labor practices and set up an schooling fund for garment staff.

In addition to her sister, Ms. McClintock is survived by her son. Her longtime associate, Ben Golluber, who was chief monetary officer of the corporate, died in 1998.

Ms. McClintock retired from the each day administration of her firm in 2013, solely to return a 12 months later.

Since the early 1980s, the corporate headquarters have been in a industrial constructing in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, however Ms. McClintock bought the area in about 2016 and thereafter ran the enterprise from her house workplace.

She lived in a Queen Anne Victorian home in Pacific Heights, which she purchased from the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. With a decorator’s assist she turned it right into a romantic fantasy, with Venetian chandeliers, billowing pink satin curtains, inlaid marble flooring and Aubusson carpets — simply the precise backdrop for the Old World fashions she favored.

“I have a romantic feeling about life,” Ms. McClintock advised a reporter in 2007. “I like Merchant-Ivory movies and candlelight and beautiful rooms. I like the patina of age.”



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