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Oscar de la Renta’s life becomes art at The Mint’s newest fashion exhibit

 By Trey Chanel

April 27, 2018

The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta is The Mint Museum’s newest exhibition during their “Year of Fashion,” and features nearly 50 ensembles by the famed fashion designer. The exhibition, curated by André Leon Talley, former editor-at-large for American Vogue magazine and lifelong friend of Oscar de la Renta, pulls together fashions created across two continents and five decades to display the scope of de la Renta’s sophisticated vision with clarity and cohesion.

This exhibit takes you on a journey through the grand influences and imagery of de la Renta’s work, and Talley brings his breadth of experiences at the intersection of fashion and art to provide a glimpse into the sprawling creativity of the renowned designer.

As life becomes art in this collection, here are some facts about the real world of Oscar de la Renta that shine in this exhibit:

Oscar de la Renta loved to garden and despite the hard work associated with the pastime, de la Renta’s floral-themed fashions capture the understated elegance found in quiet gardens. In one section of the exhibit dedicated to that inspiration, you’ll find gowns with varied greens, luxurious florals and dizzying peacock prints paired against a moving backdrop to evoke the feeling of the European countryside. Curator Talley, a North Carolina native who holds multiple degrees in French Literature, cites the imagery created by storytellers like Gustave Flaubert and Leo Tolstoy as influential in his career as a fashion historian.

Oscar de la Renta was inspired by Spain and its culture, but he was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. At the age of 18, de la Renta went to study painting in Madrid, and inadvertently found his way into the world of fashion while drawing sketches of designs for newspapers and fashion houses. In the area of the exhibition dedicated to the designer’s Spanish influences, dramatic black lace and other deep hues pop with the intensity and passion associated with Spanish culture.

Oscar de la Renta liked to blend elegance with simplicity, and sought to create fashion that a modern woman would want to wear. Though his designs have been worn by celebrities like Jackie Kennedy and Taylor Swift — there’s an ensemble worn by Swift during the 2014 Met Gala included in the exhibition — de la Renta did not confuse opulence with the avant garde. There is a room in the exhibit which features nearly a dozen dresses in blush hues, contained between four glitter-specked walls, which displays this mindset well. As curator Talley has said, there is no doubt at least one item that every woman would want to take home in this exhibition.

Oscar de la Renta was a great dancer, and singer and painter. According to Talley, whose friendship with de la Renta offers a refreshing perspective on the legendary designer, all of de la Renta’s artistic influences contributed to his innovative designs. Keep an eye out during the exhibition for a gorgeous red dress inspired by the style and movement of Spanish flamenco dancers.

Oscar de la Renta loved architecture, which makes sense considering that the task of a great fashion designer is to design and construct wearable art. This influence can be found everywhere in de la Renta’s designs, from his attention to form — his designs are known for their stunning silhouettes — to the intricate embellishments found on some of the Eastern European-inspired gowns.  

The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta, a true testament to the art of one of fashion’s most acclaimed designers, is on display at Mint Museum Randolph April 29 through July 29.  

Check out more on The Mint Museum.

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