An ‘Oscar’ Worthy Appearance

Oscar de la Renta takes a bow spring 2015

Much has been written about Oscar de la Renta following his death on Monday evening, and the tributes continue to pour in. In today’s The New York Post, “Man about Gown” by Serena French, there were pictures showing some of Oscar’s most “iconic looks” worn by a diverse group including Princess Diana, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, and Anna Wintour. There was a picture of the Vogue editor attending the 2014 CFDA Awards in a blue printed dress and fur trimmed tweed jacket that they mistakenly said was from Oscar’s Resort 2014 collection. In fact, it was from Marc Jacobs’ Resort 2014 collection. Oops! In any event, Oscar’s longtime friend Anna Wintour wrote an essay which appeared on Wednesday and unsurprisingly, she hit the nail on the head with her description of his “extraordinary personality: optimistic, fun, sunny, romantic,” pointing out that these very same elements  were always there in his designs.

Oscar de la Renta black tulle with silver leaf floral  embroidery spring 2015

In fact, unlike many of his fellow designers who apparently love to explore and
tap into their dark sides, Oscar (who didn’t seem to have one) was apparently
incapable of doing so. Indeed, even his black dresses (which make sublime use of
tulle, open work, and guipure lace and are often decorated with vibrant
flowers), were just about as un-brooding and un-funeral as could be. This is not
lost on me given the recent opening of the Costume Institute’s “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire”, an exhibition devoted to death and almost
entirely played out in black.

Oscar de la Renta Fall 2015 a standout in red

On Tuesday morning, Glamour magazines’ editor-in-chief Cindy Leive appeared on the Today Show and was interviewed by Matt Lauer who pointed out that many people associate Oscar de la Renta with his grand, luxurious, entrance making eveningwear. He asked Ms. Leive if his designs resonated with more than movie stars and glamorous first ladies, and if they had more of a mass appeal beyond the red carpet. Cindy said yes, Oscar was also known for his day dresses and tailored suits, which are perfect for working women. This is of course, is true. Oscar was a designer of complete collections and had licensees for bridal, home, children’s wear, accessories, fragrance/beauty. But let’s get real. When you say “9 to 5”, “working women”, there are many other names that instantly come to my mind before Oscar’s. Without question, he was perhaps best known, for his exquisite evening wear (cocktail dresses and gowns), and rightly so.

Fashion designers will always point out that the biggest compliment they can get, and the thing that is the most satisfying and flattering, is when they see women actually wearing their designs out and about. A designer’s clothes will always long out live them. That is their legacy. There is no question that Oscar loved what he did and he loved making women look and feel beautiful. If you are lucky enough to own one or more of his creations, there is perhaps no better way to honor him and pay tribute, than to take them out of the closet and wear them. And what better time, since we are entering the festive holiday season! He will undoubtedly be watching, with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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