Credit: Lives of Style
“Who wants to go see a bunch of dresses on mannequins?” That was my first reaction to the Oscar De a Renta exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art. I thought that dresses were meant to seen in action, worn by the person for which De la Renta intended. I figured that such an exhibit would be an incomplete display of the designer’s personalized art.
I was wrong.
Like all good art, De la Renta’s work encompasses the intimate and personal as well as the bold and universal. The dresses were majestic while being personalized and unique. The set-up of the mannequins is dynamic. Some sit cross-legged while others stand in a circle. The pieces are works of art that are striking even when still.
The first room demonstrates the gamut of Spanish culture, which inspired Oscar de la Renta during his studies there in the 1950s. Elaborate Catholic veils clash with shorter skirts, which reveal the cultural unrest and change of the time period. In the same room, MFAH displays modernized versions of the classic matador and flamenco dresses, both of which seem to overflow with passion and drama.
The museum has also placed pictures or paintings of possible inspirations for the dresses and celebrities wearing the pieces along the walls, enriching the understanding of the work.
The next room displays work inspired by the Far East and Russia. The dresses are dramatic and bold, while remaining delicate, subtle, feminine, and wearable. A few highlights are Anna Wintour’s fur-lined coat and a breathtaking red Russian wedding dress, the delicate and simple elegance of the gown is perfectly accentuated by a long monochromatic train.
The next room is filled with dresses inspired by verdant gardens and spring picnics. The dresses have leaf motifs and are filled with bright pastels. These are perhaps some of his most wearable dresses and yet do not sacrifice any art for their practicality.
The last room is where the dresses worn by Hollywood actors and actresses are displayed. High points include Kirsten Dunst’s Marie Antoinette gown, Penelope Cruz’s elegant black Met Gala dress, and Taylor Swift’s iconic pink gown for the same event. Each dress is stunning and awe-inspiring.
Although the exhibit sadly concluded after that room, I was left with lasting impressions and much to think about. I was amazed at how Oscar de la Renta understood his audience for each dress and incorporated his understanding into his work. The gowns of a less talented designer could all be worn by one person, but De la Renta’s amazing breadth makes such a situation impossible as it encompasses a variety of tastes and styles, while keeping his unique touch.
De la Renta captures cultures and milestones and small events in life in his work, and therefore, seeing his work is much like seeing the pieces of a talented painter. Thus, De la Renta shows that he deserves a spot in a building the halls of which also house pieces by ancient masters, Monet, and Van Gogh.