Designer Oscar de la Renta poses with models after the showing of his spring 1996 collection in New York, November 1995.
Designer Oscar de la Renta poses with models after the showing of his spring 1996 collection in New York, November 1995.
Photo by Paul Hurschmann/AP Photo, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

From Hollywood icons to bona fide royalty and First Ladies Jacqueline Kennedy and Laura Bush, women would clamor for the privilege of wearing Dominican fashion designer Oscar de la Renta's clothes. This fall, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is showcasing his life and work through almost 70 ensembles in “The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta”; there’s even a local connection.

“There are works from our own collection as well as loans from local Houstonians,” says Cindi Strauss, the museum's Sara and Bill Morgan Curator of Decorative Arts, Craft and Design, who collaborated with former editor-at-large for Vogue magazine André Leon Talley (and others) in curating the show.

(L) Silk taffeta and satin gown worn by Mica Ertegun in 2001, (center) silk shantung evening ensemble from the Collection of Alexandra Kotur, and (R) silk taffeta with beads and sequins, gift of Mercedes Bass.
(L) Silk taffeta and satin gown worn by Mica Ertegun in 2001, (center) silk shantung evening ensemble from the Collection of Alexandra Kotur, and (R) silk taffeta with beads and sequins, gift of Mercedes Bass.
© Photos courtesy of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

"Oscar de la Renta has always been incredibly popular in Houston, so it’s really terrific to be able to add the local works to this exhibition that’s otherwise drawn from the Oscar de la Renta, LLC archives, his private archives, as well as the archive of the French house Pierre Balmain, where [he] was director for ten years," says Strauss. Hint: Expect to see at least one piece from Lynn Wyatt's fabulous closet, as well as gowns once worn by Penélope Cruz, Kirsten Dunst and Karlie Kloss. "There are some showstoppers that otherwise are not accessible to the public."

This jewel of an exhibit sparkles with antique furniture, paintings and clips of celebrities wearing his clothes. "We have installed furnishing[s] and paintings that reflect not just his influences, but also his passions," says Strauss. She and co-curator Talley received assistance from fashion historians Molly Sorkin and Jennifer Park. The first room is devoted to Spain, where de la Renta began working for the legendary couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga and developed his affinity for embroidery and cascading ruffles.

(L) Model Gunilla in Fiji, 1971, and (R) Penelope Cruz and Oscar de la Renta at Costume Institute Gala in New York City, 2011.
(L) Model Gunilla in Fiji, 1971, and (R) Penelope Cruz and Oscar de la Renta at Costume Institute Gala in New York City, 2011.
(L) Photo by J. P. Zachariasen/Condé Nast via Getty Images and (R) © Kevin Mazur/Wire Image/Getty Images, both courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

"That's followed by a large gallery that looks at the influences of the East and that includes China, Japan, Russia and the Middle East," says Strauss. The romance of this region introduced silk ensembles, furs, jeweled appliqués and harem pants to de la Renta's collections.

Other rooms focus on gardens and their influence in his designs. "Mr. De la Renta was a fabulous gardener himself and he had extensive gardens in his homes in the Dominican Republic and Connecticut, and the garden was a big influence," says Strauss, referring to the designer's botanical themes, floral-printed taffetas and full skirts.

Yet another room is devoted to the dignitaries, celebrities and philanthropists who wore his fashion. "The final gallery of the exhibition we’re calling Icons. There are two monitors in the Icons gallery that will show each of the dresses being worn," says Strauss.

“The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta” opens October 8, continuing 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays, through January 28, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300, mfah.org, free to $25.

Programming inspired by this exhibit includes lectures, concerts, films, exclusive tours and more:

Sunday, October 8, at 3 p.m.
A Conversation with André Leon Talley and Clifford Pugh about Oscar de la Renta: Life, Influences, and Style
Visitors can attend a conversation between the influential André Leon Talley, lead curator of the exhibition and former American editor-at-large for Vogue, and Clifford Pugh, editor-in-chief of CultureMap, about the life and work of Oscar de la Renta. $5 to $10.

Friday, October 13, from 8 p.m. to midnight
MFAH Mixed Media
Dance the night away, show off your Oscar de la Renta-inspired outfit, sip on specialty cocktails inspired by the exhibition, and enjoy bites from Mi Garita. Musical performances from Miguel Migs, DJ Sun, and FXBOXolmos celebrate "The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta." Admission to this event includes access to the exhibition. $22 to $25.

Saturday, October 21, at 2 and 3 p.m.
Gallery Concert: The Sounds of Glamour and Romance
Enjoy the sounds of Da Camera Houston Young Artists performing iconic 20th-century music in the exhibition galleries that reflects the sophisticated appeal of Oscar de la Renta’s fashions while paying tribute to the designer’s passion for flamenco dance and music. This program is free with admission to the exhibition. Camp stools are provided for seating.

Monday, November 6, at 6:30 p.m.
Exclusive Tour
Enjoy a tour of "The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta" led by Marissa Hershon, Curatorial Assistant, MFAH. $55 to $65.

Saturday, October 28, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Flowers in Fashion
The Garden Club of Houston and The River Oaks Garden Club join forces with Marissa Hershon, Curatorial Assistant, MFAH, for a presentation highlighting gardens as a major point of inspiration for Oscar de la Renta’s fashion designs. Following the presentation, participants will create their own floral designs using garden tools and botanicals. $100 to $125.

Monday, November 6, at 6:30 p.m.
Exclusive Tour
Enjoy a tour of "The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta" led by exhibition co-curator Cindi Strauss. $55 to $65.

Saturday, November 11, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Design Workshop
Attendees can enjoy a presentation from Marissa Hershon, Curatorial Assistant, MFAH, providing an overarching look at the structure and scope of the exhibition and highlighting the cultures and artworks that served as points of inspiration for the pieces. Following the presentation, Glassell Jr. School instructor and Houston Community College faculty member Jessica McMahon, will lead a hands-on design workshop focusing on how to conceptualize a cohesive design, address color choice, pattern, and shape. Participants will work to create inspiration mood boards using sketching and collaging techniques. $30 to $35.

Friday, December 1, and Saturday, December 2, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Little Artists: Discovering Fabric!
Children, ages 3 to 5, are invited to experiment with various fabrics used by Oscar de la Renta. This program includes a storybook circle, multi-sensory play, a tour of the galleries with a Museum educator, and an art-making project in the studio. Free to $8.

Sunday, December 3, from 1 to 2 p.m. and 2:30 to 3:30 p.m
Sunday Family Studio: To the Nines: Exploring Fashion Design as Art
Families can explore fashion designs in the art studio and create pieces inspired by the styles on view in "The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta." Registration is required. Free to $8.

Sundays, December 3, 10 and 17, from 1 to 4 p.m.
Sunday Family Zone: Fearless Fashion: Discovering Oscar de la Renta’s Designs
Families are invited to learn about the art on display in "The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta." Drop into the galleries and enjoy a variety of games, activities, looking guides, and books. Each Sunday offers two storybook circles: one at 1:30 p.m. and the second at 3 p.m.

Tuesday, December 5, from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
MFAH Playdate: Movement + Art
Children up to 35 months old are invited to enjoy a multi-sensory experience in the contemporary art galleries. Families sing songs, listen to storybooks, and participate in fun games and activities, all while being introduced to ideas and themes found in art, such as color, size, and texture.

Tuesday, December 5, 11:30 a.m. to noon
Family Storybook Circle: Inspired by Gardens
Join in a lively storybook adventure exploring floral patterns incorporated into fashion pieces on view in Oscar de la Renta.

Friday, December 15, and Saturday, December 16, 10:30 to 11:15 a.m., and 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Our Youngest Artists: Play with Design!
Babies and toddlers up to 35 months old are invited to discover and create art using washable, nontoxic materials. Participants are encouraged to touch and explore new materials in the studio, constructing their own creations inspired by the work on view in the exhibition "The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta." Free to $8.

Sunday, December 17, 1 to 2 p.m. and 2:30 to 3:30 p.m
Sunday Family Studio: Cut, Drape, and Sew: Exploring de la Renta’s Ensembles
Families can learn about how the styles on view in "The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta" were put together and create pieces inspired by the works on view in the exhibition. Registration is required. Free to $8.

Daily, Tuesday, December 26, through Sunday, December 31, from 1 to 4 p.m.
Winter Break at the Museum
This winter break, join the family fun as you explore the exhibition "The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta" and explore his career. Afterwards, step into the pop-up studio and create your own inspired work of art.

Friday and Saturday, October 20 and 21, at 7 p.m.; Sunday, October 22, at 2 and 5 p.m.;
and Thursday, October 26, at 2 p.m.

Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards
(Directed by Michael Roberts, UK, 2016, 89 min.)
This new documentary profiles Manolo Blahnik, the popular shoe designer who is regarded as a genius by the most revered figures in fashion. The designer reveals himself to be charming, funny, and modest, narrating his life from an idyllic childhood in the Canary Islands through the trajectory of his highly successful career. Additional commentary is provided by his staunch admirers, including fashion and entertainment world notables André Leon Talley, Anna Wintour, Paloma Picasso, Iman, Rihanna, Naomi Campbell, Isaac Mizrahi and many others. This documentary provides a behind-the-scenes peek into his world and is a must-see for anyone who owns or has coveted a pair of his shoes — famously known as “Manolos.”

Friday and Saturday, November 24 and 25, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, November 26, at 5 p.m.
Bill Cunningham New York
(Directed by Richard Press, USA, 2010, 84 min.)
“We all get dressed for Bill,” says Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The “Bill” in question was New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham (1929–2016). For decades, this Schwinn-riding cultural anthropologist obsessively and inventively chronicled fashion trends and charity soirées for the Style section in his columns “On the Street” and “Evening Hours.” Documenting uptown fixtures, downtown eccentrics and everyone in between, Cunningham’s enormous body of work was more reliable than any catwalk as an expression of time, place and individual flair. In turn, Bill Cunningham New York is a delicate, funny and often poignant portrait of a dedicated artist whose only wealth was his own humanity and unassuming grace.

Saturday, December 2, at 7 p.m.
Mahogany
*Presented by Joy Sewing, Fashion & Beauty editor for the Houston Chronicle
(Directed by Berry Gordy, 1975, United States, 109 min.)
An ambitious and aspiring designer (Diana Ross) from the Chicago slums puts herself through fashion school with the hopes of becoming a top international designer. Along the way, she becomes a rich, deliciously decadent global supermodel, thanks in part to a fashion photographer (Anthony Perkins) who reinvents her as his muse. However, she is torn when activist boyfriend (Billy Dee Williams) wants her to sacrifice her dreams as he pursues a political future.

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