A tour of the Oscar de la Renta exhibit with Laura Bush

Posted Saturday, Aug. 09, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style

• Through Oct. 5

• George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, 2943 SMU Blvd., Dallas

• 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday

• $18

• 214-346-1650; www.georgewbushlibrary.smu.edu/

Bridal gowns in Denton

“American Brides: Inspiration and Ingenuity” is an exhibition of more than 40 wedding gowns and ensembles created as early as 1840. The display, a collaboration between the University of North Texas’ Texas Fashion Collection and the Greater Denton Arts Council, is on view at the Patterson-Appleton Center for the Visual Arts in Denton until Oct. 24. It includes dresses by Texas designers Michael Faircloth, Winn Morton and Victor Costa, as well as 19th-century gowns from Steven Porterfield, owner of The Cat’s Meow vintage store in Midland and guest appraiser on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. The exhibit is free. 400 E. Hickory St., Denton, 940-382-2787, www.dentonarts.com.

Fine Jewelry in Houston

“Bulgari: 130 Years of Masterpieces” can be appreciated by fans of fine jewelry at the Houston Museum of Natural Science through Oct. 5. This exhibition showcases 150 masterworks of gemstone artistry pulled from the famed Roman jeweler’s own archives and from private collections. They include pieces owned or worn by such luminaries as Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly and Julianne Moore, along with archival portraits, sketches and other archival materials. Exhibition tickets are $20-$25; museum admission is included. 555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, 713-639-4629, www.hmns.org.

Charles James retrospective

“A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James” celebrates the American fashion legend, who recently has been the subject of an extensive show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Texas show runs through Sept. 7 at the Menil Collection in Houston. The exhibit centers on the late couturier’s relationship with heiress Dominique de Menil who, along with such Old Hollywood stars as Gloria Swanson, became an important client to the moody-yet-brilliant designer. De Menil and her husband, John de Menil, commissioned couture, collected James’ sketches and even hired him to decorate their home. The exhibition includes gowns, suits and daywear from the de Menils’ personal collection, along with furniture and sketches that show James’ creative process. The exhibit is free. 1533 Sul Ross St., 713-525-9400, www.menil.org.

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As former first lady Laura Bush gazed at the elegant knee-length Oscar de la Renta dress and coat she wore to the swearing-in ceremony at her husband’s 2005 inauguration, she recalled that white turned out to be the perfect color choice.

“The floor of the platform was a beautiful sky blue, which I didn’t know that it would be … So the white dress with snow all out on the ground and then this beautiful sky blue platform really looked perfect,” Bush said. Turning her eyes to the silvery gown she wore that night, she said: “He made it so sparkling and so beautiful with the crystals.”

The ensembles are among more than 60 featured in the retrospective of de la Renta’s career at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. “Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style” runs through Oct. 5.

“To me, this is such a great example of what Oscar really tries to do — whether it’s for first ladies or the lady on the street, he really tries to understand what people want, what people need, he tries to get people. And I think that this is really a reflection of his great relationship with Mrs. Bush,” said Alex Bolen, chief executive officer of Oscar de la Renta, as well as the designer’s son-in-law.

The exhibit, featuring designs from the beginning of de la Renta’s career in the 1960s to present day, is arranged by themes, from gowns inspired by de la Renta’s love of gardening to those showing the Spanish influence on his works to gowns worn on red carpets and by first ladies, including Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nancy Reagan.

There are also plenty of red carpet looks on display, including gowns for Hollywood A-listers Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The exhibition is underwritten by Fort Worth philanthropist Mercedes T. Bass, for whom de la Renta also designed ensembles.

Bush said the exhibit was the designer’s idea. “He called me and said, ‘May I do a show there? I’d love to.’ Of course I was thrilled; I’d always envisioned that we do a show of clothes,” Bush said.

Jenna’s wedding dress

Former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager’s wedding dress from her spring 2008 Texas ranch nuptials is among those displayed, along with Bush’s turquoise mother-of-the bride dress.

“When Jenna married, there was just one designer she wanted to design her dress, and that was Oscar,” Bush said, adding, “Of course she thought it was the prettiest dress ever, and it is.”

The bridal gown was heavily beaded and embroidered and featured a V-back and a sweep train. Fashion critics hailed it as understated, elegant and stunning.

Hager, now a correspondent on Today, told the morning TV show that she remembers de la Renta as “one of the most kind, talented and irreverent gentlemen I’ve ever known.”

“When I walked into his studio, Oscar proudly showed me the wedding dress he thought I should wear. It was perfect,” Jenna told Today. “I slipped on the dress and walked out to show its designer. He handed me a bouquet of flowers and, with a charm which only he could exude, gave me his elbow. We practiced a walk I would eventually make with my dear dad.”

Laura Bush said she was able to wear many of the dresses to multiple events, including a blue silk dress she wore not only for a Vogue photo shoot but also on other occasions, including a dinner for then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy and for her White House portrait.

“One of the great things about his clothes is that you can wear them over and over,” she said. “They last longer than a year: Both they stay in fashion longer than a year and then they also obviously are so beautifully made they last for a long time.”

De la Renta’s designs were also featured last year at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark. — including a teal pantsuit Hillary Clinton wore when she was sworn in as senator.

A fashionable state

The Oscar de la Renta display is one of several museum exhibitions around the state geared toward visitors who love fashion and design. Here’s a glance at a few others.

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