Ray Aghayan, whose unmistakable design touch was featured on such stars as Judy Garland, Lucille Ball and Lauren Bacall, died Monday at the age of 83, it has been confirmed to PEOPLE. Cause of death was not announced.
Born in Tehran, Iran, Aghayan moved to Los Angeles while in high school and first tried acting, directing and producing before turning to costumes. He was eventually successful in convincing the Television Academy to recognize costume design at the Emmys — and, in 1967, won the first-ever Emmy Award for Costume Design for Alice Through the Looking Glass, an honor he shared with his onetime assistant, Bob Mackie.
The two became life partners, and Mackie survives Aghayan.
Aghayan’s three Oscar nominations were for Gaily Gaily (1969), and, with Mackie, Lady Sings the Blues (1972), starring Diana Ross, and Funny Lady (1975), with Barbra Streisand, who wore 40 different costumes in the musical.
As quoted by the Archive of American Television, Aghayan once said, “I think an excellent costume design is that which serves its purpose to the best possible degree. Gives the actor the character. Helps the actor grow into that human being … it helps the audience to be able to look at that and know what the hell it is they’re looking at. That is the best costume. When it really serves as that complete thing that gives you all the information you need to have.”
–Stephen M. Silverman