DALLAS – 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 colour 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 a new retrospective of de la Renta’s career that opens Saturday at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas. “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.
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.
Her daughter Jenna Bush Hager’s wedding dress 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.”
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, Arkansas – including a teal pantsuit Hillary Clinton wore when she was sworn in as senator.