While visiting the Bouquets to Art exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, recently, my Mom and I got the opportunity to check out the Oscar de la Renta fashion retrospective. The show, which runs until May 30th, includes over 130 pieces, spanning the famous designer's iconic career. It felt like an honor to see these timeless designs in-person, and I'm so glad we made the exhibit part of our day trip.
The exhibition was curated by noted fashion personality Andre Leon Tally, who brought the epic pieces to life with his unique styling. It was fun to walk through each of the eight galleries, which were grouped by style and sometimes decade. Ranging from ready-to-wear to couture, this compilation included designs from de la Renta's time with Elizabeth Arden as a newcomer, throughout his career, up until his death in 2014.
When we got home that night, I scoured the web for more information about his life and career. He was born in the Dominican Republic in 1932 and rose to fame in the 1960s when he dressed Jackie Kennedy. He would come to dress four First Ladies, many dignitaries, and countless movie stars. I learned a lot about the collection itself from this article by Andre Leon Tally, where he outlines some of his favorite looks and how he chose to style them.
I think I especially enjoyed this exhibit because it was sort of a combination of two of my favorite college courses: Textiles 101 and an American History class, Hollywood in America. I loved being surrounded by the fabrics, the styling, the fashion of it all, and had fun reminiscing from that perspective. After walking the exhibit, the history nerd in me became really intrigued about the people who donated the pieces. I wanted to know who these interesting woman were that wore these clothes, where, and how they wound up with Oscar de la Renta originals in their closets. The information for who donated each piece was listed under the corresponding ensemble, but we didn't recognize many of the names right away. With the help of some further internet research I was able to find the back stories for some of the most repeated names, including: Eliza Bolen, his stepdaughter, Lynn Wyatt, a Houston socialite, Diana Vreeland, noted fashion columnist and former Vogue editor-in-chief, Annette de la Renta, his second wife and muse, Nan Kempner, famous New York City socialite, Alexandra Kotur, international taste-maker and style director for U.S. Vogue, and Laura Bush, former First Lady.
My favorite section was the red carpet gallery. The room was dimly lit, and the walls were lined with mirrors, perfectly showing off the backs of the gowns, equally as intricate and special as the fronts. The very last bit was dresses famously worn at Met Balls and Oscars, by such stars as Amy Adams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Taylor Swift, and Nicki Minaj! I immediately recognized almost every gown, but for those I didn't, there was a running montage of clips when the dresses were first worn. The flash bulbs in the video made it feel like you were on the red carpet with the stars. I wish!
The exhibit as a whole was informative, beautiful, and incredibly fun. I can't believe it's nearly done with it's time at the de Young in San Francisco! Go see it if you're in the city and are looking for an indoor activity on this holiday weekend. If you have the chance to see it while it travels across the country (something I anticipate it doing), I highly encourage you to do so. Make a date of it and wear your favorite outfit, I have a feeling Oscar would like it that way.