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Jill Richards, 85; fashion designer to stars, socialites

May 02, 2007|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Jill Richards, an actress turned fashion designer who was known for a feminine dress style that earned her the nickname "Ruffles Richards," has died. She was 85.

Richards died at Sunrise Senior Living in Beverly Hills on April 21, after developing the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, her son, Jon Richmond, said Monday.

When she launched her first collection in 1970, Richards joined a small group of Los Angeles designers who helped expand the California market beyond swimsuits and shorts. She made evening gowns and special-occasion clothes in such luxury fabrics as silk, velvet and lace.

She said she learned the basics about style while working as an actress in her 20s. "When dressing someone for the screen you may drop a little bit of what's happening in fashion to flatter your lady," she told The Times in 1986.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 03, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 7 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Richards obituary: A photo that accompanied the obituary of fashion designer Jill Richards in Wednesday's California section showed a model wearing a Richards design, not the designer herself. Richards is shown in the photo above.

Nearly every one of her collections included a version of her "Kitty Foyle" look, a dark-colored dress or suit with a white collar that was inspired by an outfit Ginger Rogers wore in the 1940 movie of the same name.

"I use a lot of white close to the face. It reflects light like the 'key light' they give you on the set," Richards said in the 1986 story, referring to the device photographers use to define a shape or silhouette.

Richards' client list glittered with socialites and movie stars, including Nancy Reagan when she was first lady of California in the 1970s and actress Victoria Principal in the 1980s. Richards' designs were sold at Saks Fifth Avenue and other specialty stores. Richards closed her fashion business in the mid-1990s.

Richards was born Jill Fishkin, on Aug. 29, 1921, in Cleveland. She moved to Los Angeles with her family when she was young and graduated from Beverly Hills High School before she started her acting career. At that point she changed her name.

She had small parts in such movies as "April in Paris," a 1952 romantic comedy that starred Doris Day and Ray Bolger. More often she worked in television, making guest appearances on "Dragnet," "Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" and other series.

She married Jack Richmond, a designer of lighting and interiors for commercial spaces. They had one child. Besides her son, Richards is survived by three grandchildren.

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