Dec 15, 2013

Designer du Jour: Marusia


 Prince Nicholas Toumanoff and his wife, the California designer Marusia. (Photograph by Patrick Fisher.) How to Run a Backgammon Tournament, Oswald Jacoby and John R. Crawford, 1970

Marusia Radunska was born near Wilno, Poland, June 25,1918. She married to radio announcer Don Wilson, best known for The Jack Benny Show, on December 17, 1942 in Harrison, NY. They divorced June 20,1950. She then married Prince Nicholas Toumanoff, divorcing him in 1955. She married Etienne Sassi, an international art dealer, in 1966.

Based in California, Marusia was showing her fashion designs under her own name as early as 1947. She seems to have been at her peak in the later 1950s. She designed with an eye for glamour, and was quite a society personality, with a real knack for PR. Marusia is credited as Costume and Wardrobe for The Loretta Young Show, where she produced gowns for 19 episodes from Sept 1953 - Jan 1954, and credited as the Costume Designer for The Rosemary Clooney Show in 1956. Marusia started a partnership with Travis Banton in 1956. They designed the Broadway costumes for Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame, and also for her replacement, Greer Garson. Banton died in 1958.

Described as a glamorous blonde, Marusia may have been a Polish Countess. It’s also possible that claim was PR puffery. She said she designed for “women of the world”. Her celebrity list included Dinah Shore, Rosemary Clooney, Jeanette MacDonald, Lily Pons, Perle Mesta, Queen Narriman, and Doris Day. Although based in California, and often listed as a top California designer, according to one interview, she stated "California doesn't influence me. I design for the woman of the world, for any climate,any country. California is my home, I started working there and continue. A good designer can work anywhere." She also stated "I think American designers should influence Paris”.
1950s High Style Navy Silk Taffeta Cocktail Dress by Marusia SZ L

Her newspaper coverage fades after 1963, with a few references as late as 1966. The NY Times obituary states "She received awards for the clothes created for Miss Russell and Miss Garson in ''Auntie Mame'' on Broadway, for Lily Pons in the Metropolitan Opera production of ''Lakme'' and for Geraldine Page in ''Separate Tables.''.

Marusia Radunska Wilson Toumanoff Sassi, possible Countess, sometime Princess by marriage, died March 16, 1982 and was survived by her husband Etienne Sassi.

Currently available at Past Perfect Vintage

1 comment:

Woman of a Certain Age said...

Have just posted a comment to you but suspect it was gobbled up somehow, so am just rewriting it, in case.
I am very excited to see your page of research and images for Marusia Radunska.
She was my aunt - my father's sister - and although we never met, she has a sort of mythic status in the family story.
We have struggled to piece together her real story - and you intimate that there is some fluffery in what you have found - that has been our experience, too.
However, you have found information we have never seen and, if you are interested, perhaps we could share some of our knowledge with you as well.
Very curious to hear how you have come to conduct your research.
Also, are all the garments in the row of images at the top of your Marusia page her designs - or only the blue frock you have as a feature?
Look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards
Naomi Radunski

20 Sterculia Avenue
Holland Park West

Facebook page: Naomi Radunski
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