DC couturier Harriet Kassman dies at 90


Harriet Kassman, whose outfits and gowns dressed high-powered Washington women for decades, died Feb. 24 at 90.

The Washington Post said Kassman was the capital’s “unofficial arbiter of haute couture” and had a “loyal stable of elite clients including governmental officials, business executives, and embassy and political wives,” some of whom spent “six-figure sums annually in purchases.”


Three years ago, when Kassman’s store closed, NPR corespondent Nina Totenberg said she would stop by the store after visiting her husband, who was in hospital for many months.

"I’d often buy something to cheer myself up," she said. "[Kassman] was just wonderful to me."

This week, in her eulogy at Kassman’s funeral, Totenberg said: “Yes, I bought this suit from Harriet. You don’t think I would dare come here in something I bought anywhere else, do you?”

A fashion columnist at a local Washington magazine wrote that Kassman, a slight woman who was 5 feet tall “showed up to work every day – in high heels – for over 30 years, often with her little poodle, Bastien, at her side.

Kassman was a frequent visitor to European designers’ salons, and she referred to such well-known fashion icons as Mark Badgley and James Mischka as the “boys.” “Well, they WERE boys when I met them,” Kassman said.

Kassman was born in New York City, and graduated from the University of Georgia. She originally owned a store called with her sisters in Florida, moved to Washington in 1967 and worked at department stores before opening her own in 1977.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org.

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