On air
  • RFI English Live
  • RFI French Live

United States Washington France Haute couture President Barack Obama Bill Clinton Marseille

Issued on • Modified

Georges de Paris, French tailor to US presidents dies at 81

US President Barack Obama with French-born tailor Georges De Paris at the White House in Washington, 2014. AFP PHOTO / HANDOUT / ALAIN TRAMPOGLIERI

Georges de Paris, a French tailor who emigrated to the US at the age of 27, spent six months living on the streets but went on to become tailor to successive presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama. De Paris died on Sunday in a hospice in Arlington at 81.

Born in Marseille in the south of France, de Paris - his real name he claimed - learned his trade in France and arrived in the United States in 1960 with only 3,500 dollars in savings.

Following a disastrous relationship with his American girlfriend in Washington, de Paris ended up broke, panhandling on the streets and sleeping in car parks near the White House.

But six months later he met a French-Canadian taylor who gave him work and de Paris was soon able to strike out on his own.

In 1969 Congressman Otto Passman introduced de Paris to Johnson, who enlisted the tailor’s services.  

In his heyday de Paris, whose shop was just a few blocks from the White House, worked for Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Obama.

De Paris said he liked Reagan and George W Bush best.

They were the “friendliest and also the most elegant”, he said in 2002, but he found Bush's father "not very friendly".

“Reagan spoke a lot. (…). He gave me jellybeans and was always afraid that I would prick him with my needles during the fitting”, he added.

According to his friend Alain Trampoglieri, de Paris was suffering from a brain tumor.

But “during the periods when he could not work, he would go by the shop in the morning and turn on the lights and go back in the evening and turn them off”, Trampoglieri recalled.