Gorgeous gowns are always a part of every major Houston gala. But at Friday night's Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Grand Gala Ball, they were the focal point since the theme was celebrating The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta exhibition, which opens Sunday.
Gala goers went all out to dress for the occasion. Many wore creations of the legendary designer, picking a vintage design from their closet, commissioning a custom-made gown, or choosing a just-off-the-runway look from the label's new designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia.
As sometimes happens, two attendees chose the same Oscar de la Renta gown for the ball (and a third museum supporter had worn a similar version of the same gown to a private preview of the exhibition Wednesday night), but they each brought their unique style to the fashion-themed events.
Others chose colorful gowns from other designers in tribute to de la Renta, who loved beautiful clothes, no matter who created them.
Here are some of our favorites.
Gown: With the help of close friend, fashion legend André Leon Talley, who curated the Houston de la Renta museum exhibition, Yvonne chose a custom Oscar de la Renta tea-length gown with matching clutch and custom Manolo Blahnik shoes.
Why she chose it: "André insisted that I get this dress. I called him and he said, 'Darling, come from Houston to New York and I will put you in THE dress and you will be custom fitted.' And after we left we went to Manolo Blahnik and he made my shoes from the same fabric. Two months later, I get a call, 'your shoes are ready.' They're really comfortable.
"Then I had this purse made. And I had enough fabric to make two purses, so I gave one to (Oscar de la Renta's stepdaughter) Eliza (Bolen).
"Somebody asked me do I feel like Cinderella? And I said, 'no' because when it turns midnight, I’m keeping my shoes and my dress. It's really special. I feel like a princess."
Claire Cormier Thielke
Gown: Yvonne's daughter, Claire, picked an off-the-shoulder black Dior column gown with statement necklace.
Why she chose it: "I had just worn Oscar to some other parties, so I thought I would mix it up. And I always do whatever André tells me to do. I can follow instructions. He said, 'Wear that.' (And she did.)
Gown: Oscar de la Renta red gown with sequin fern embroidery and an illusion neckline from the 2018 resort collection. It is the first one made from the collection, which has not yet reached stores.
Why she chose it: "I am wearing this beautiful red dress in honor of the exhibition. It closed the (MFAH) fashion show yesterday. Red is a strong color and I thought it would be fun to wear tonight."
Ball chair Cherie Flores
Gown: Oscar de la Renta pink with black band and bow at the back.
Why she chose it: "My dress was custom made for me at Oscar de la Renta. They started on it this summer — my husband gave it to me as an anniversary present. I went up there — it's not a design they do — they made it just for me so you won't see another one like it."
About the color: "I let them know what color my party would be and wanted to pick something that would complement the party."
Gown: Alanna chose a vintage Oscar de Renta bolero over the dark gown.
Why she chose it: "My mother loaned me her vintage Oscar de la Renta bolero. I've loved it ever since I was a little kid, in her closet always playing dress up. The dress is from a lingerie store in Paris."
Gown: Meredith chose a red fitted Zac Posen gown.
Why she chose it: "I love Zac Posen because he understands a woman's body and Oscar is the same way: classic, curves, understands a woman should look feminine and romantic. It's Jessica Rabbit all the way!"
Gown: Oscar de la Renta tulle tea-length gown with black crystal embroidery.
Why she chose it: "I saw it and I thought, "This is it for this ball.""
Courtney Lanier Sarofim
Gown: Oscar de la Renta vintage gown.
Why she chose it: I wore this to the Best Dressed Hall of Fame. It’s at least 12-13-14 years old. I love all my old Oscar. I've archived it. I have the Marilyn Oscar, the mother of the bride Oscar, the Indian Oscar, and then I have this nice red Oscar. I love it. It never goes out of style."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta spring 2018 column gown with embroiderd flowers.
Why she chose it: "I thought it was pretty and appropriate for Houston."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta emerald gown.
Why she chose it: "It's a great jewelry dress; great color. I fell in love with it."
Gown: Amir Taghi strapless tea-length gown with tulle skirt.
Why she chose it: "The designer is my cousin and I think he is the future Oscar de la Renta of the world! I've been wanting to wear this dress for a long time and tonight seemed like the perfect occasion. I paired it with some hot pink shoes."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta spring 2018 embroidered gown with matching purse.
Why she chose it: "I went to Oscar de la Renta in New York, saw it, and bought it. I loved it because it's so spectacular."
How she made it her own: The petticoat it came with is like a lampshade so I didn’t like that. I got another Oscar petticoat and put it on.
Gown: Oscar de la Renta fall 2017 black strapless embroidered gown.
Why she chose it: "I got it at the style show that they had at my event in the spring (the Oscar de la Renta fashion show at Bayou Bend). I love the neckline and the big skirt."
Gown: Tom Ford red gown.
Why she chose it: "I mainly wear black. But I felt tonight for Oscar I needed to wear color, so I wore red and complemented it with Oscar earrings."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta turquoise strapless gown.
Why she chose it: "I chose it because I like the color and the shape."
Diane Lokey Farb
Gown: Oscar de la Renta spring 2018 embroidered gown.
Why she chose it: "I ordered several long dresses out of the collection and this was my favorite. I think you always have a favorite when you order clothes. There's one you like better than the others, so that’s the first one you gravitate to."
Gown: Hervé Léger blue bandage gown with cutouts.
Why she chose it: "I wanted to wear something different because, you know me, I like Roberto Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana. But it's my first time with this color. I'm so excited."
Gown: Tulle skirt and embroidered red bodice gown by an Indian designer in New York.
Why she chose it: "I bought it in New York. I like anything red!"
Gown: Zac Posen black gown.
Why she chose it: "Bruno Brady at Neiman's always has an eye out for me. Every time he gets something interesting in he calls me so I have one of a kind."
Gown: Isa Arfen dotted gown.
Why she chose it: Isa Arfen is a new contemporary designer I’ve really had my eye on. Then this piece came out and all of a sudden I had this (gala) to go to and thought, 'Yay I have a reason to buy that.'
Gown: Dior silver gown.
Why she chose it: "It went well with my shrug by Oscar de la Renta, which adds just a splash of Oscar to my outfit."
Gown: Vintage Oscar de la Renta.
Why she chose it: "It’s something I had. And actually I'm very happy about. It’s a little big on me now so I've lost a little weight. Women always like to lose weight."
"I’ve always loved Oscar. He’s my favorite dress to wear to galas. I can always find a dress when I go to Oscar."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta black-and-white gown.
Why she chose it: "I tried on three dresses and my children said, 'That's the best one, Mommy.' "
Evening attire: Black Halo jumpsuit.
Why she chose it: "I wanted to be comfortable because I knew I would be running around a lot tonight. And jumpsuits are usually my best friend. I like the velvet stretch, it’s a little bit like a tuxedo but a female version."
Gown: Nicole Bakti striped gown.
Why she chose it: "I had a different one picked out. And At 5 o'clock today I decided that I didn't like the gown I had so I drove straight from my clinic to Tootsies and I picked this out about two hours ago."
Gown: Vintage Oscar de la Renta.
Why she chose it: "I choose it in context with the chairman Cherie Flores' beautiful floral invitation. She did an amazing job on the invitations and I felt that I wanted to honor that."
Gown: Dior black gown.
Why she chose it: "I scouted this dress during Paris Fashion Week. I thought it was perfect for this occasion."
Mary Tere Perusquia
Gown: Naeem Khan coral satin gown with gold band at the bodice.
Why she chose it: "I just love his designs."
Gown: Carolina Herrera strapless magenta gown.
Why she chose it: "Carolina was a friend of Oscar's, so I figured it was okay to do that."
Gown: Jay Godfrey one-shoulder town and Tenenbaum jewelry.
How she chose it: "The emeralds choose the dress."
Gown: Vintage Oscar de la Renta plaid gown.
Why she chose it: "I got it at a vintage consignment shop in California. I found it this summer. Oscar always is elegant, beautiful fabrics, it's wonderful."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta blue gown with laser-cut sleeves.
Why she chose it: "I walked into Tootsies, saw it, and had to have it. It's my favorite one out of the trunk show. It just popped."
Margaret Alkek Williams
Gown: Ripetta of Rome.
Why she chose it: "I love the color emerald."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta spring 2017.
Why she chose it: "I wore it to my granddaughter's wedding, so it has very good vibes! It feels very good to have it on here at the museum."
Gown: Harry Robles sheer gown with embellished sequin design.
Why she chose it: “He's a Puerto Rican design. I’m Puerto Rican so I’m honoring my country tonight."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta white column gown.
Why she chose it: "I have some really special Oscar in my closet, and I toyed with wearing a beautiful white and black gown with tassels from his last collection, which I wore to a museum ball a number of years ago.
"And I almost wore it, and then I knew all the ladies were going to be in really big gowns so I thought I would go simple, with a little mink," said said referring to her Naeem Khan earrings.
Gown: Oscar de la Renta strapless gown with flower detail, worn with Oscar de la Renta earrings.
Why she chose it: "I love the color and the texture of the black flowers. It had straps, but I decided to go strapless."
"I love it because it has pockets. I can skip the clutch."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta lemon gown.
Why she chose the gown: "I thought it was a fun color to wear for the evening."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta embellished sequined gown.
Why she chose It: "The detail is unbelievable. These (gowns) are both from before he died."
Gown: Oscar de la Renta gown with floral embellishment.
Why she chose it: "Because of the flowers; it fits in with the theme."
Gown: Jovani V-neck gown.
Why she chose it: "Jovani always fits me really really well."
The last word
We asked Oscar de la Renta CEO Alex Bolen to comment on the dappled yellow, black, and white gown worn by his wife, Eliza (right), pictured here with Allison Sarofim (left).
"I'll tell you a little secret. It was slightly custom designed," he said "This is right off the runway from September. The clothes are in Paris so they had to rush one for Eliza. And unfortunately I'm out of fabric, so I had to rush some more fabric for this one."