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Jessica McClintock (1930–2021), fashion designer and owner of Gunne Sax

by Linnea Crowther

Jessica McClintock was a fashion designer who owned Gunne Sax, creating popular prom and wedding dresses for a generation of women.

Designing romantic fashions

McClintock began designing for Gunne Sax in 1969, and by 1970, she had taken over the brand. The dresses she created often drew on elements from a romantically-imagined past, including corset bodices and puffed sleeves, as well as fabrics like lace, brocade, and dotted swiss. Gunne Sax quickly gained in popularity, and by the ‘80s, it was one of the most dominant formalwear brands for women, popularly chosen for weddings, proms, and other special occasions. Her fans included Hillary Clinton, who wore a Jessica McClintock dress for her 1975 wedding to President Bill Clinton. In 1987, McClintock renamed Gunne Sax to Jessica McClintock, and she opened dozens of self-named boutiques across the U.S. She also introduced categories including perfumes and accessories.

Notable quote

“I’m constantly changing, and my greatest joy is when I do something different the next day. Even driving to work, I try to take a new path. Now, that’s silly, but it’s true. I’m always trying to develop new ways of going to new places, new things, thinking that way and this way. As long as I can challenge myself that way, I still think I’m a little bit younger than – all that.” —from a 2001 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle


Tributes to Jessica McClintock

Full obituary: San Francisco Chronicle

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