“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself.
– Oscar de la Renta
Houston has recently celebrated the legendary designer’s clothing exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, through various small events, such as a discussion of the designer between Culturemap’s editor-in-chief Clifford Pugh, and former Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley. I attended the discussion and was just so enthralled hearing what Talley had to say regarding curating the exhibit, as well as his personal friendship with the designer, which spanned over the course of fifty years.
It was said that Diana Vreeland created a standard for fashion exhibitions. Mr. Talley used that memory, along with his years of experience spent working with her and other fashion notables on various projects, to help with building this exhibit, which took over a year to plan. He wanted to have certain pieces tell a story. Such stories could tell the tale of that of a flamenco dancer in a total frenzy, or duchesses and grandees of Spain going to Good Friday ceremonies at the Grand Cathedral. These grandees would go on foot in their best black clothes, black suits, and high jewels, mantillas, and combs. He noted that he saw it in 1987, as well as witnessed the bullfighters, and how they dressed.
One of the things that Mr. Talley recalled, was that Oscar like to interact with people, instead of just sitting and sketching. Also, that fabric was the most important, and that it, along with textures, spoke to him. The designer loved exuberant color, and was often inspired by the colors of Spain- the sunshine, the outdoors, flowers. Oscar’s vision was usually simple silhouettes that paired with opulent, almost Rococo fabrics. Lastly, his wife Annette was his muse.
The exhibit is beautifully curated and features over 70 of the designer’s iconic pieces, including Amal Clooney’s wedding dress from 2014 (and the last wedding dress Oscar designed before he passed). Other pieces were sourced from the company’s corporate and personal archives, the Pierre Balmain archives, other private lenders, and the museum’s archives.
The rooms are also divided into sections, which highlighted his greatest influences: Spain, the Far East, Icons, and the Garden. The ‘Spain’ room offered gowns in rich reds, white, black; paired with the mantillas, combs, flowers, and decadent jewelry. The ‘Far East’ room had influences of Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, and War and Peace. The ‘Garden’ room featured gowns with floral print, a dress with the same print as Marie Antoinette’s bedchambers at Versailles, as well as iconic wedding dresses. The wedding dress portion of the exhibit features the dress worn by Oscar’s stepdaughter Eliza Reed in her marriage to Alex Bolen (now CEO of the company), Amal Clooney’s dress, and a dress that was never worn but was inspired by Jennifer Jones in Madame Bovary. The ‘Icons’ room paid homage to Oscar’s long list of iconic clients, such as: Kirsten Dunst, Beyoncé, Lynn Wyatt, Yvonne Cormier, Rose Cullen, Annette de la Renta, Karlie Kloss, former First Lady- Laura Bush, Penelope Cruz, Anna Wintour, Eliza Bolen, and Taylor Swift.
I currently own three vintage Oscar de la Renta dresses, and having attended this exhibit, now have a even greater appreciation for them. I won’t be parting with them anytime soon.
The exhibit goes until January 28th, 2018. Purchase tickets HERE.