Got clients to step out in style

Ann Jacobs Pakradooni nudged Main Line matrons to new horizons when they purchased fashions from her boutique made from Venetian silks, African-print cottons, and Italian tablecloths, or booked adventurous tours to Tahiti or Istanbul with her travel agency.

Mrs. Pakradooni, 89, former owner of Joie de Vivre boutique and Floating Fantasy Tours, died of pneumonia Friday, Oct. 22, at Beaumont, a retirement community in Bryn Mawr.

In 1992, when she closed her Haverford boutique, Mrs. Pakradooni told The Inquirer that she had gotten into the business after seeing an identically dressed woman at a black-tie event in 1959. She sold originals by upscale designers and was soon featuring her own designs, too.

"My lines are usually simple and classic, but I do love to use rich and unusual fabrics," she told The Inquirer in 1961.

Mrs. Pakradooni bought material on trips to Europe, such as brightly colored tablecloths from a restaurant where she dined in Italy. Her designs included cocktail dresses made from Indian saris and a tailored sheath made from an Irish damask tablecloth.

Some of her creations were innovative: a raincoat made from waterproofed artists' canvas, a large handbag with a zipper compartment for an extra pair of shoes, and a stretch-denim dress featuring plastic-lined pockets for an exhibitor at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

Her paper fashions were exhibited in the Canadian Pulp and Paper Pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal, and a paper bikini made the cover of Women's Wear Daily.

In 1976, she designed an official Bicentennial scarf that sold for $20, with a percentage of sales going to the Pennsylvania Bicentennial Commission.

"It was like Alice in Wonderland, with one door opening to another," Mrs. Pakradooni said of such triumphs in 1992.

Her success, though, wasn't just happenstance. She hosted fund-raising fashion events, art exhibits, and book-signing parties in the boutique to bring in customers.

In 1974, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower's son John launched the book tour for his memoir, Strictly Personal, from Joie de Vivre. When he was ambassador to Belgium from 1969 to 1971, his wife, Barbara, bought a wardrobe from the boutique. Mrs. Pakradooni designed dresses for embassy events from fabric presented as gifts to Barbara Eisenhower when she accompanied her father-in-law to Europe, Asia, and North Africa in 1959.

In the early 1980s, Mrs. Pakradooni added wedding fashions at her boutique, including restored antique dresses. She acquired the vintage fashions from estate sales, museums, and people eager to sell the contents of their attics, said her daughter, Gigi.

In 1983, Mrs. Pakradooni and her husband, Dikran, started a travel agency and for 20 years escorted Main Liners on memorable trips, including a cruise up the Amazon for 135 people to view Halley's comet in 1986.

She closed Joie de Vivre to concentrate on the travel business. After her husband's death in 1999, she remained involved in its operations until well into her 80s. Her daughter now runs the travel agency from Boston.

Mrs. Pakradooni grew up in Wynnewood and graduated from the Baldwin School. Her father, George, was a real estate developer, and her mother, Jennie, ran a cooking school and catering business in Ardmore.

After earning a bachelor's degree from Sweet Briar College in Virginia, Mrs. Pakradooni was a celebrity columnist in New York for Young America magazine and interviewed Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Danny Kaye, her daughter said.

During World War II she was a correspondent for the Army Transport Command and filed a story from Ascension Island, a desolate refueling base in the middle of the South Atlantic.

She married her husband after the war in 1945. While raising a family in Bryn Mawr, she handled a dozen important volunteer commitments, her daughter said.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Pakradooni is survived by a son, Loyd, his wife, Debbie, and a granddaughter.

A memorial service will be held at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, at Beaumont in Bryn Mawr, 601 N. Ithan Ave.

Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 399 Market St., Suite 102, Philadelphia 19106.

 


Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.