The fabric’s sheen, the jeweled feline design, and flowing feathers epitomize Sarah Sato’s love of whimsy and drama. The designer George Halley was known for these qualities and his glamorous eveningwear during the 1960s and 1970s—which might surprise those who knew him while growing up on a farm in Alliance, Ohio. Just a few years before he produced this dress, Halley and his wife Claudia Morgan (a model and the muse for designer Norman Norell) founded his design house. Almost immediately, they found success, even winning a prestigious Coty Award in 1968. Sarah would have worn her statement-making fashions to openings, benefits, and other philanthropic events. When wearing this dress, she explained that she often removed the detachable collar of this dress because the feathers ended up in her mouth (not a glamourous experience).
Sarah’s dramatic tastes in fashion can also be tied to her interest in powerful art and culture, most notably music. She and her husband Sam moved to Cleveland during the 1940s and supported the Cleveland Orchestra, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Northern Ohio Opera, the Cleveland Music School Settlement, and New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Sarah made an enormous impact while serving on the board at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and she and Sam established the school’s Center for Suzuki Studies. The couple did much of this work together, and their marriage was celebrated—most notably after they completed the oldest spouse-to-spouse organ transplant when Sarah gave Sam a kidney.
(Cocktail Dress by George Halley. 1969. Worn in Cleveland, Ohio by Sarah Nakagawa Sato)