Oscar de la Renta was old school. He embraced glamour and elegance and he designed red carpet dresses like nobody else. His loss this week at the age of 82 will be felt greatly among those lucky enough to have worn his incredible creations.
For many, Oscar de la Renta was best known for having dressed many of America’s first ladies, not least of whom was Jacqueline Kennedy and they don’t come much more high profile than that. Hillary Clinton remained a loyal fan from first lady to politician in her own right while Michelle Obama finally bowed to tradition and wore ODLR just this month (despite his criticism of her wearing a J.Crew sweater to Buckingham Palace).
With a clientele such as this it would be easy to think that this elderly gentleman who was born in the Dominican Republic in 1932 and counted Balanciaga and Lanvin as just two of his employers appealed more to the middle aged lady. However to overlook Oscar de la Renta would be wrong. In recent years he has dressed everyone from Cameron Diaz to Taylor Swift. Actress Amy Adams may not have won an Oscar in 2013 but to my mind her dove grey Oscar de la Renta gown was one of the wins of the night.
The ‘Concorde Couturier’ as he was known, combined classical craftsmanship with a modernity that meant his designs are copied by the high street and his popularity has never dwindled. In fact when in 2004 during season 6 of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw lusted after an Oscar de la Renta gown which she subsequently wore, suddenly the esigner was thrust into the spotlight once more. Sarah Jessica Parker herself was a friend of de la Renta and made headlines at this year’s MET ball when she wore an ODLR gown with his signature emblazoned across the hem of the enormous skirt.
“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself” said Mr. de la Renta, the words of a man who cared little for trends preferring to stick to what he did best; flattering the female form whether that be with lace, ruffles, a train or a corset. It is difficult to date an ODLR design (the Jackie Kennedy dress above would not be out of place now) and therein lies the appeal – timeless, stunning and unutterably feminine gowns that make the wearer feel like they’re floating on air.
Oscar’s advice about walking as if you have three men behind you is perhaps not the most right on or feminist statement and if wearing an Oscar de la Renta gown, not really necessary either. With the passing of this fashion great we lose a designer with a genuine love of women, (it could’ve gone either way – he was the youngest of seven and the only boy) an old fashioned aesthetic and an eye for detail (he was married to editor of French Vogue Francoise de Langlade).
How fitting then that it should have been Oscar de la Renta whom the now Mrs. George Clooney, Amal Alamuddin, chose to design her wedding gown this summer, arguably the most anticipated wedding since Prince William married Kate Middleton.
As Sarah Jessica Parker wrote herself this week: “Others will come along and will eventually make ball gowns with pockets in them — with stripes and polka dots, garden party gowns. But nobody is meant to fill the void. They can’t. All I can think today is, ‘That’s it. That’s done, that extraordinary moment in time that he created.’ “
Today those fairytale gowns are that much further out of our reach.