Ode to Oscar

Oscar de la Renta exhibit features fabulous gowns worn by Laura Bush, Nancy Reagan and Lynn Wyatt

The George W. Bush Presidential Center's newest exhibit, Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style, is a dream come true for those with a passion for fashion. It explores the famed designer's significant career, from the origins to his most recent runway and red carpet masterpieces, and includes many pieces worn at the White House by Laura Bush, who picked him as her go-to designer for major functions and private events.

Here's a preview of some of our favorites. To view the full collection for yourself, head over to the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas before Oct. 5.


Some of Oscar de la Renta's earliest memories include the “flounced and ruffled white dresses” worn by his grandmother and the bright sunlight of the tropical island of the Dominican Republic.

He created the center dress for Lynn Wyatt to wear to the Yellow Rose Ball when she was honored for works benefiting the Houston Grand Opera. Mercedes Bass wore the dress on the left to the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence Gala in 2012.

“I hope others will see in this portrait what I see: a woman who was honored and humbled to live in the White House during a period of great challenge and who will never forget the countless American faces who make up the true portrait of that time.” — Laura Bush

Laura Bush wore this dress by Oscar de la Renta for her official White House portrait session.

Take a look at the leather jacket with matching skirt for a fun blast from the past.

Nancy Reagan wore this day ensemble on November 21, 1988, when she and President Reagan broke ground on a hilltop in Simi Valley, California, for construction of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

Oscar de la Renta was one of Nancy Reagan's favorite designers as early as 1968 when she was first lady of California.

“He is one of the most handsome men I have ever met in my life, singular in his elegance. Perhaps even more so today. He is a lovely, wonderful, graceful, supremely talented, generous, kind man. There is simply no one in the world like him.” — Sarah Jessica Parker

This red carpet-themed section of the exhibit features gowns worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Anna Wintour, Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Garner.

In 2008, Jenna Bush married Henry Chase Hager in this silk organza, silk appliqué Oscar de la Renta gown with intricate rhinestones at a private ceremony at her parents' Prairie Chapel Ranch near Crawford, Texas.

Laura Bush was also wearing one of de la Renta's designs for her mother-of-the-bride duties on this very special day.

As a child growing up in the Caribbean, de la Renta was surrounded by the vibrant colors and sweet fragrance of hibiscus, tuberose and mango trees. This inspired a passion for gardening, and today he is renowned for the gardens he created at his homes in the Dominican Republic and Connecticut.

This dress from Oscar de la Renta’s fall 2013 collection inspired many camera phone snaps and oohs and ahhs from those attending the preview.


“Gardeners and couturiers possess many of the same talents: imagination, knowledge and industry,” friend Rosemary Verey wrote in 2008 for Vogue, with de la Renta in mind. "Both know which colors shock or coordinate, which textures rasp or soothe, and both see fashions change — but they never forget that the concept of beauty is timeless.”

Botanical themes are common in Oscar de la Renta’s work. Flowers are seen in colorful printed silks, delicate bead embroidery and even intricate foldings along the train of some dresses.

Throughout his career Oscar de la Renta has looked to cultures from around the world for inspiration for his couture and ready-to-wear pieces.

Some of the more elaborate patterns seen in the exhibit include the Chinese textiles, colorful woven ikat patterns of Uzbekistan and Turkestan, and the vibrant Japanese prints.

References to Spanish art history are also found in the designer’s work. Popular in this style of design were the peacock silhouettes, which have a raised front and elongated train.

Perhaps the most iconic Spanish accessory (not pictured) were the lace veils or shawls that fall to the shoulders and are worn over high combs on the head.

“Working for incredible talents like Balenciaga and Antonio Castillo, I learned about the immense skill and creativity involved in couture work.” — Oscar de la Renta

Another popular look that incorporates a veil is this stunning and very elaborate silk taffeta, wool and sable gown from the Oscar de la Renta for Balmain couture collection.