October 12, 2011

Ray Aghayan, Primetime Emmy-Winning Costume Designer for Four Decades

In addition to his many credits with stars such as Judy Garland, Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand, Aghayan was a mentor to renowned costume designer Bob Mackie.

Ray Aghayan, a costume designer who worked extensively in both film and television for more than 40 years, died October 11, 2011, in Los Angeles. His reported age was 83.

Aghayan began his career in television, segued into features, and later returned to television as a key contributor to large-scale live events, including several Academy Awards telecasts.

A mentor and partner of renowned costume designer Bob Mackie, Aghayan was known for his collaborations with major female stars, including Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross.

He earned seven Primetime Emmy nominations and won three times—including the first Emmy for costume design, which he and Mackie shared for the 1967 special Alice Through the Looking Glass. He also garnered four Oscar nominations, as well as a Tony Award nomination in 1970 for Applause.

Born July 28, 1928, in Tehran, Iran, Aghayan displayed a creative spark at a young age. As a boy, he began sketching for his mother, a couturier and designer for the family of the Shah of Iran. In 1952 he moved to the United States to study, and five years later became a naturalized citizen.

Although he contemplated becoming an actor, he ultimately devoted himself to costuming, and in the late 1950s he found work in television, beginning with the series Matinee Theatre while on staff with the NBC wardrobe department.

After nearly a decade of television credits — including An Evening with Fred Astaire, Shirley Temple Theatre, The Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show and The Judy Garland Show — he began to work steadily in feature films.

His notable movie credits included Do Not Disturb, In Like Flint, Our Man Flint, Doctor Doolittle, Lady Sings the Blues and Funny Lady.

From 1976 to 1997, Aghayan designed costumes for four Academy Awards ceremonies and in 1984 he designed the costumes for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

On August 26, 1998, Aghayan had the distinction of being interviewed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s Archive of American Television. During the two-hour interview, conducted at his home in Studio City, California, by the Archive’s Karen Herman, Aghayan spoke about designing costumes for Matinee Theatre, while on staff with the NBC wardrobe department, the challenges of quick costume changes for live television, and his long association with Bob Mackie.

He fondly recalled working on The George Gobel Show, winning the first Primetime Emmy awarded for costume design (along with Mackie) for Alice Through the Looking Glass, and designing costumes for The Judy Garland Show, many Academy Awards telecasts and the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics.

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