When Hillary Clinton asked Oscar de la Renta to put together a retrospective of his work at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, the famed designer was in a bit of pickle. Although he has been in the fashion business for more than 50 years, de la Renta is never one to look to the past and had not saved many of his designs.
"Unfortunately, only in the last 12 years have we been keeping our archive of clothes because before that I never ever thought that anyone would ever have the slightest interest in my clothes,” he told Women's Wear Daily.
"These golden oldies, I can't bear to get rid of them, whether I want to or not."
So he called his friend, Lynn Wyatt, who was inducted into the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 1977 and has meticulously cared for her designer wardrobe (she even occasionally brings out a classic outfit to wear to a Houston society event). "Those golden oldies, I can't bear to get rid of them, whether I want to or not," she tells CultureMap with a laugh.
Wyatt went into her "summer and winter closets" and found some of her favorite de la Renta creations. "He realized that he didn't go back far enough, so he asked me if I had something and I said, ' I certainly do,' " Wyatt explains. "I sent him three or four things and he was thrilled. He remembers them like they're long-lost children. He's so happy to have them come back home."
The Wyatt-donated ensemble of a stylish pair of pale green embellished slacks and a long tunic with a V-shaped hemline that de la Renta designed in 1968 is the earliest piece in the exhibition, which will be on display through Dec. 1. "I could wear it today," she says. "It's timeless."
Also in the exhibit are five looks worn by several first ladies, including a reproduction of the burgundy velvet gown that Hillary Clinton wore on the cover of Vogue, a red suit that Laura Bush wore in 2008 and a tan coat and dress worn by Nancy Reagan in 1988. Large reprints of photos from Vogue, including the Clinton cover — the first time a first lady was featured on the magazine's cover — are included.
Recent red carpet and runway looks worn by Chelsea Clinton, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Jessica Parker and Taylor Swift, along with a gown worn by actress Carey Mulligan on the May 2013 issue of Vogue are also included in the exhibition of more than 30 de la Renta pieces.
See a video of the exhibit, with interviews by the Clintons, Barbara Walters, Anna Wintour, and Diane von Furstenberg: