Early on – say the 80′s – there was that run on fashion phrase “Oscar-Ralph-Calvin-Bill.” When Bill died in 2002 it became “Oscar-Ralph-Calin-Donna.” This pretty much meant “EVERYONE” who was anyone in the monde of fashion. For the last 40 years in American fashion one could not write, talk, or even report on a season of fashion without invoking something about OSCAR.
You will read the fashion tribe ooze on about his iconic handiwork, lace, ruffles and exquisite textures and his love of the female shape. For me, the fashion aspirant, the TV lifestyle correspondent who covered him for 2 decades, Oscar was the Dominican charmer with that sexy slice of a smile, a softness that touched you, and a gentle lullaby of an accent. His elegance was palpable. Every time I was in his presence during an interview or social event, I felt so self conscious. I was always looking to see if I had a spot or a strand of hair lurking somewhere out of place. What a waste of neurotic worry. Oscar was the least judgmental of any of the fashion brood. President’s wives, rock stars, fashion icons, fashion editors, news anchors, his son’s nanny – he dressed them all and treated them all equally… never looking over your shoulder to see if anyone more important was entering the room.
The ultimate compliment was when he turned out for my book launch at Sotheby’s. My 6″ square teeny tome didn’t mention him. It wasn’t about fashion. In fact, it was completely unOscar. Yes Oscar De La Renta not only attended my “Decorating on a Dime” book party, but bought SEVERAL. With several of the low-high concepts on display including a table base made from plumbers pipes, he stopped to marvel at my feather wrapped lampshade and said, “Are you stealing my ideas?” I swooned.
What transfixed me about Oscar as a high school shop girl in my home town of St. Louis still fascinates me today. He was the fashion Degas. His gentle hand translated his love of the female figure something beguiling and feline. This saturates his designs – ruffled-cut on the bias-bejeweled – whether they were off the rack or made for a pop icon.
And what will always stay with me and that I did not appreciate at the time… he advised me, “the legs are the last to go.”
Oscar, my dear friend, truer words were never spoken.
Lifestyle Contributor (1984-2001)