Obituary: Georges de Paris, tailor to nine US presidents

27 September 2015 - 02:00 By The Daily Telegraph, London

Georges de Paris, who has died aged 81, was a one-time vagrant who became the "Tailor to the Presidents" - in a career spanning five decades he designed suits for every US head of state from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama. As the proprietor of his shop, "Georges de Paris, custom tailor", three blocks from the White House, he measured the inside leg of nine presidents, but in the '50s he had been a homeless Frenchman sleeping rough on the streets and, reportedly, bathing in the Potomac River.De Paris was a short, corpulent man with a mane of silver-white hair that bounced on his shoulders. He had an impenetrable Marseille accent and a liking for red bow ties and braces and oversized rings.Reflecting on his famous clients, De Paris recalled that Ronald Reagan was particularly charming, and knew his cloth: "[He] spoke a lot. He, like George W, knew how to appreciate the quality of fabrics. He gave me jelly beans and was always afraid that I would prick him with my needles during the fitting."In the late '50s, De Paris left France for the US, spurred on by a love affair with an American woman. He moved in with his girlfriend but she sent him on his way when he refused to marry her. He spent several months on the streets of Washington, sleeping in a park within sight of the White House.After getting a job as a cutter for a French-Canadian tailor, he saved enough to buy a sewing machine and later to set up his own shop.De Paris hit the big time in 1963 when he made a suit for Johnson. "Congressman Otto Passman introduced him to me," De Paris recalled. "'This guy's a good tailor, but he no speak English.'" A tradition was born, although it was never an official role."Each president has got a different charisma," De Paris observed. "I tell them: 'Wear something that fits your personality.'" During fittings - watched over by Secret Service agents - Nixon was cordial and Carter quiet. De Paris found the "friendliest and also the most elegant" of his presidential customers to be George W Bush and Reagan - the latter was wearing one of his suits when he was shot by John Hinckley in 1981.1934-2015

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