By People Staff
October 11, 2004 12:00 PM

At his fashion shows, Geoffrey Beene often sent ballet dancers leaping down the runway in his evening gowns and suits. “He had a reverence for women: their need to be beautified and also given freedom to move,” says writer Amy Fine Collins of her friend Beene, who died Sept. 28 at 77 of pneumonia. Blanching at a cadaver as a Tulane med student, the Haynesville, La., native decided to dress bodies instead. He loved football and made an early splash in the ’60s with witty sequined gridiron jersey dresses, then established his award-winning career with innovative cutting and draping that flattered a woman’s form. “Nothing is more admirable than the human body,” he said in 1995. But his admiration was always respectful. “He once said to me, ‘Oh, the belly button—it’s a scar!'” says Harold Koda, curator of the Costume Institute at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. “He revealed the midriff a lot, but never the belly button.” Faye Dunaway picked up her 1977 Oscar in Beene trousers, and Glenn Close wore a lace Beene gown at the ceremony in 1989. “He knew how to bring out the parts of your body that are great,” says Close. “His clothes are works of art.”