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Oscar de la Renta Dies: Designer to Socialites and Stars Was 82

By    |   Tuesday, 21 October 2014 06:36 AM

Designer Oscar de la Renta, who for more than four decades shaped the wardrobes of socialites and Hollywood stars, has died at 82.

De la Renta died at home Monday evening in Connecticut surrounded by family and friends, according to The Associated Press.

The late '60s and early '70s were a defining moment in U.S. fashion as New York-based designers finally carved a look of their own that was finally taken seriously by Europeans. De la Renta and his peers, including the late Bill Blass, Roy Halston and Geoffrey Beene, defined American style – and their influence is still spotted today.

De la Renta's specialty was evening wear, though he also was known for chic daytime suits favored by the women who would gather at the Four Seasons or Le Cirque at lunchtime. His signature looks were voluminous skirts, exquisite embroideries and rich colors.

Most recently, Amal Alamuddin wore a de la Renta-designed wedding dress when she married George Clooney. First ladies Laura Bush wore an icy blue gown by de la Renta to the 2005 inaugural ball and Hillary Rodham Clinton wore a gold de la Renta in 1997.

On the red carpet at the Academy Awards, Penelope Cruz and Sandra Bullock were among the celebrities to don his feminine and opulent gowns. His clothes even were woven into episodes of "Sex and the City" with style icon character Carrie Bradshaw dropping his name – and comparing his designs to poetry.

De la Renta's path to New York's Seventh Avenue took an unlikely route: He left his native Dominican Republic at age 18 to study painting in Spain but soon became sidetracked by fashion. The wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Spain saw some of his sketches and asked him to make a dress for her daughter – a dress that landed on the cover of Life magazine.

That led to an apprenticeship with Cristobal Balenciaga, and then de la Renta moved to France to work for couture house Lanvin. By 1963, he was working for Elizabeth Arden couture in New York and in 1965 had launched his own label.

As a designer, De la Renta always catered to his socialite friends and neighbors – as the designer and his wife, Annette, were fixtures on the black-tie charity circuit – but he did make occasional efforts to reach the masses, including launching a mid-priced line in 2004 and developing a dozen or so perfumes, the first, called Oscar, was introduced in 1977 and more recently, Rosamor.

De la Renta gave up the title of chief executive of his company in 2004, but he remained active on the design end, continuing to show his collections during New York Fashion Week.

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Designer Oscar de la Renta, who for more than four decades shaped the wardrobes of socialites and Hollywood stars, has died at 82.
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Tuesday, 21 October 2014 06:36 AM
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