The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta

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The celebrated fashion designer Oscar de la Renta celebrated joie de vivre and confidence through his designs, and was much loved by fashionistas for his ability to create beautiful, practical clothes for daytime as well as evening wear, “helping them feel their best,” as he once said.

The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta, now at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston until January 28, 2018, retraces his career with about 70 ensembles that are curated around four thematic sections, each enriched by artworks from the Museum’s collection. This is a slightly different version of Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective exhibition curated by Andre Leon Talley and first presented in De Young museum in San Francisco.

“The exquisite designs on view demonstrate Oscar de la Renta’s innate talent, and the ability of his creative vision, drawn from rich and complex cultures around the world, to transcend well beyond the world of fashion,” said museum director Gary Tinterow.

Oscar de la Renta, Coat and Dress Ensemble, fall 1968, novelty weave fabric, fur, and brilliants, the Museum of Fine Arts,.jpg


Having started his career in Madrid in the early 1950s as an apprentice to Cristóbal Balenciaga, de la Renta joined Antonio del Castillo in Paris in 1961 as an assistant in Lavin’s couture department, before relocating to New York in 1963 and finally setting up his eponymous label in 1965.

The designer enjoyed a meteoric rise, dressing many American society swans, and later also headed Pierre Balmain between 1992 and 2002, becoming the first American designer to helm a French couture house.

The exhibition opens with a look into the long lasting Spanish influences on de la Renta’s oeuvre, as bullfights or flamenco dancers inspired the silhouettes of many of his designs, from the ornamentation with embroidery, elaborate tassels, and cascading ruffles to his use of a rich color palette.

Then the exhibition explores Middle-eastern and Russian influences on his creations from harem pants and caftans to Russian-inspired garments with ornate textiles, luxurious furs, and jeweled appliqué. While another section looks at the influence de la Renta’s lifelong passions for gardening had on his work for example, the use of floral-printed silk taffetas and applied flowers.


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The final section focus on his red-carpet creations and other designs for celebrities, including Amal Clooney’s lace wedding dress, which is the last wedding gown the designer created before he died in 2014.

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