Oscar’s ‘Full’ of Himself

No silly, I’m not referring to Oscar de la Renta’s ego; though the debonair and popular fashion veteran is certainly entitled to feel mighty good about himself after winning the Council of Fashion Designer’s Women’s Wear Designer of the Year Award (in a tie with Proenza Shouler).

What I AM referring to is Oscar’s penchant for full, wide- legged, cuffed, floor sweeping pants at yesterday’s resort show. Most often counterbalanced with something leaner on top (a narrow cotton hand knit or cashmere and silk sweater), they, along with wide legged jumpsuits; wasp waist, petticoated dresses; full skirted cocktail dresses; filmy caftans, were indicative of his love of volume. But since Oscar always wants to give his ladies a variety of choices and options, he also proposed a lean silhouette by way of stretch cotton pencil skirts and abbreviated jackets and narrow stretch silk pleated dresses among other things.

Coincidentally, like last year, the resort show was a formal runway presentation held just hours before the CFDA Awards; not exactly the most convenient situation considering the pouring rain (which probably accounted for the many empty seats- I estimated the venue as 75% full). And many attendees were surely preoccupied with getting themselves home or to a hair salon, in order to get ready for the big event later on.

Speaking of convenient, just a few days before, the show was wisely moved from a gallery in Chelsea (located in the far reaches of the west side) to a decidedly more elegant uptown space, 583 Park Avenue. The venue was not only more in keeping with Oscar’s unapologetically elegant and uptown design aesthetic, but it was a bit more convenient- not only for his upper east side fans and customers (Aerin Lauder, Alexandra Lind) but for top editors like Anna Wintour (with daughter in tow), and Glenda Bailey (wearing an ivory crochet coat from spring), as well as top retailers (Bergdorf Goodman’s Linda Fargo and Neiman Marcus’s Ken Downing).

By the way, with the soggy downpour courtesy Hurricane Barry, wrecking havoc all morning, the most essential item of clothing was a great raincoat and there were many on view. While Anna opted for a sharp black patent trench, many others decided upon classic or not so classic khaki (like The New York Times’s Anne Christensen who wore Burberry’s short flared sleeved Mac with large buttons).

As for the collection, it was signature, consistent Oscar all the way, and indicative of why he took home the coveted Women’s Wear of the Year Award. The neutral color palette (white, natural, and navy, black) was enlivened with hits of yellow and tangerine- the latter looked especially fresh in the form of a patent leather drawstring jacket worn with a white stretch cotton pencil skirt, natural python Larrabee bag, and tangerine patent flat sandals. Stripes, oversized polka dots (this time embroidered), bold florals, and Ikat prints (what else is new???) provided a respite from the solids.

Getting back to the resort show, ODLR continued his experimentation with sleeves (in terms of volume, length, and silhouette) and is obviously taken with blouses, which were shown with skirts and pants. Noteworthy is his new ‘schizophrenic’ blouse: from the front it appears to be a classic button down shirt but the large bow in back gives it an unexpectedly feminine touch and added volume and dimension.

A selection of bags (from sleek clutches to oversized takeaway totes), belts (like the wide corset like patent leather version), hats (both tailored menswear inspired and whimsically large brimmed), and shoes (either pancake flats or sky high heels) all by Oscar of course, perfectly accessorized each of the 64 outfits in high style.

By the way, Anna Wintour showed up at the CFDA Awards held at the New York Public Library, wearing a knee length black and white embroidered floral dress by Oscar de la Renta. Others going the short route (and choosing Oscar), were wife Annette and her daughter Eliza Reed Bolen (who also works for the designer), both in short black cocktail dresses. They were proof that one need not wear floor length gowns in order to make a grand entrance. In fact, on the contrary. Sorry to say, but Oprah Winfrey’s complicated and voluminous Ralph Lauren gown was unflattering and looked unwieldy. And considering the heat, those who dressed up too much looked hot and bothered (like Allure’s Linda Wells in cumbersome feathers).

But hey, the CFDA Awards are not your typical red carpet event, and there are going to be many different ways to dress and many ways to creatively interpret ‘black tie’. For example, Bruce Weber turned out with a trademark red and white cotton bandana on his forehead; Vogue’s Grace Coddington showed up in her trademark black pantsuit; Zang Toi and his date, Rachel Smith, Miss USA, made a visual statement clad in matching black and white paisleys. Though Zang’s was a shirt and Bermudas, and Ms. Smith’s was a grand ballgown.

Interestingly, even though this was the 25th anniversary of the CFDA, it seems that silver (which signifies the years) was eclipsed by every other color of the rainbow (red, pink, black), and by its metal counterpart gold. Though one woman did pay homage to honoree Ralph Lauren and the anniversary date by accessorizing her floor length white cotton shirtdress (emblazoned with Ralph’s signature polo player) with a silver ‘tie’.

And speaking of shirtdresses, Charles Nolan’s lacquer red short sleeved shirt dress gown, worn on his model date, was an example of taking something simple yet adding drama through color, cut, and fabric. But in a sea of gowns, I have to say that one true standout was Amy Fine Collins’ colorful vintage Geoffrey Beene gown with its abbreviated bolero. Other than this year’s inaugural Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award (which was awarded to Robert Lee Morris), what better way to pay homage to the late great designer!

– Marilyn Kirschner

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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