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updated: 6/6/2011 2:29 PM

'Heirloom suit' treasured by Arlington Heights family

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  • Nicholas Casati, wearing the suit, with his date, Carolynn Pelletier, before the Loyola Academy prom.

    Nicholas Casati, wearing the suit, with his date, Carolynn Pelletier, before the Loyola Academy prom.
    Courtesy Margaret Irvine


Margaret Irvine and her Arlington Heights family have a direct link back to the Roaring Twenties, John D. Rockefeller and even the historic stock market crash of 1929, all sewn into one suit.

The "heirloom suit," as Irvine called it, came out of storage last month for her grandson's prom at Loyola Academy.

Nicholas Casati, 18, of Evanston was the third generation in his family to wear the suit. It was commissioned at the end of the 1920s for a friend of his great-great uncle's at Princeton University.

Over the years, his grandfather, William A. Irvine of Arlington Heights, wore it for rare special occasions, and his uncle, William Irvine wore it to his Palatine High School prom in 1981.

Now, it was handed down to Casati, who wore the vintage black evening suit, with its white bow tie and tails, and custom shirt and vest, to the prom on May 21.

"It was a lot of fun, I got a lot of reaction from it," said Casati, who graduated one week later. "My friends totally did not believe me when I told them it had been made in the 1920s."

One look inside the jacket, at the label on the pocket would have confirmed it. It contains the name of the tailor, Olson and Daly, on 47th Street in New York, and even date it was completed: March 11, 1930.

The way his grandmother tells it, the suit was tailor-made for Salvatore Ros, whose wealthy family in Argentina had commissioned it. Beyond its authentic label, the suit is made of an expensive worsted wool with black silk lining.

"The jacket doesn't button and is short in front," Casati said. "And the tail in back goes down to your knees. My friends thought I looked awesome in it."

Ros must have had more suits like it, because he gave this one to his friend at Princeton, Howard MacAdams, Casati's great-great uncle.

MacAdams' father had been bankrupted in the 1929 stock market crash, so his friends at Princeton pitched in to help him. Ros gave him the suit, while another good friend covered his tuition for the remainder of that year -- John D. Rockefeller.

After graduation, MacAdams went to work for the Chase National Bank, now JP Morgan Chase, in which Rockefeller was the major shareholder. As MacAdams settled into his career, he gave the formal suit to his nephew, Irvine.

Margaret Irvine recalls that her husband wore it only twice, to a fancy New Year's Eve ball at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York in 1971 and later to formal event in Chicago in 1978.

Their son wore it three years later, and like Casati, he was a hit with his friends in the custom tailored suit, reminiscent of the Duke of Windsor.

"Amazingly, all three fit into it," Margaret Irvine said. "I only had to hem up the pants."

Margaret Irvine has served as the curator of the suit since her husband inherited it, including keeping track of the shirt's buttons and studs, as well as laundering the shirt herself for fear of it falling apart at a laundry service. But she said, she doesn't mind.

"I think it's absolutely wonderful that it's still being worn," she said. "It's such a piece of history in our family. It's an heirloom."