Born: Tripolis, Greece, 20 January 1920. Family: Married Nancy Angelakos, 1960; children: Peter. Career: Couturier, Athens, 1949-61; New York couture and ready-to-wear business opened, 1961-90. Died: 10 December 1990, in New York.
Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style, New York, 1989.
"George Peter Stavropoulos," Current Biography, March 1985.
Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, and Peter Vitale, "George Stavropoulos: A Master of Classical Line in Manhattan," in Architectural Digest, September 1989.
"George Stavropoulos Dies; Known for Classic Designs," in WWD, 12 December 1990.
"George Peter Stavropoulos," [obituary] in Current Biography, February 1991.
Throughout his career, George Peter Stavropoulos maintained a relatively low but highly respected profile in the fashion world. He was one of a small number of designers in America who exclusively produced ready-to-wear clothes of the quality and caliber of Parisian haute couture. Stavropoulos presented two ready-to-wear collections, produced in his own atelier each year for 30 years and never ventured into lower priced lines, licensed products, or perfumes, as did many of his contemporaries. Nor did he venture into the further reaches of avant-garde design. While many of his designs were innovative and strikingly beautiful, they were never shocking or arresting and his innovations were subtle to the degree that they were apparent only to the wearer or noticed either upon close inspection, or when the wearer moved about.
Stavropoulos established his business in New York in 1961, having left his native Greece, and chiffon evening dresses of every variety were central to his collections. Signature chiffon looks included single shoulder asymmetrically draped toga styles, inspired by models from classical antiquity, many layered body-skimming styles, and dresses with pleats originating at the neckline or shoulders that could be tied at the waist or left flowing freely away from the body. Recurring details included intricate pleats and tucks, wrap and capelet effects, free floating panels that could be thrown across the shoulders as a scarf or wrapped around the waist as a belt, and other multipurpose convertible details.
Evident in his chiffons and central to Stavropoulos' design philosophy were the ideas of comfort, softness, and ease of movement. In 1961 he remarked, "I don't want clothes to be tight, it's not high fashion. A woman must be able to move around in a dress." In the early to middle 1960s, contrary to the prevailing tendency toward stiffness and a boxy silhouette, Stavropoulos designed unconstrained kimono-sleeved jackets and daytime wool suits cut on the bias that subtly draped over the body. Throughout his career, rather than designing evening coats to go over his gowns he preferred the soft and simple cape to finish off his evening looks, often accessorized with a single long strand of black or white pearls.
By the mid-1970s, when the trends had caught up with Stavropoulos and fluid simplicity was the rage, the designer presented the ultimate innovation in soft and simple luxury—a gently flaring tank dress in five layers of bias-cut white chiffon with a single seam at the center back. Unlike his contemporary Halston, however, who presented similar looks around the same time, cerebral, minimal modernism was not the conceptual basis for his design. Instead Stavropoulos was most interested in exploring the ideas of softness and ease of movement (despite the apparent simplicity of Halston's designs and his pretensions to minimalism, many of his garments were a challenge to wear). Although Stavropoulos was most praised for his creations in chiffon, he was adept at working with other fabrics and had a particular liking for taffeta and satin, pleated, tucked, and manipulated on the bias with the same attention to fine detail he gave chiffon.
Stavropoulos' style remained unchanged in his three decades in business in New York. Demand for his signature body-skimming layered chiffon evening look was so consistent that he found it a challenge to "make the clothes look different," yet still reflect his point of view that "classical design is forever." His clients appreciated the classic and long-lasting investment quality of his garments and many still wear his clothes today.
—Alan E. Rosenberg