Oscar de la Renta, the American designer popular among A-list celebrities, died Monday at the age of 82. The designer is known for dressing famous women for the red carpet, and for his beautiful wedding dress designs, such as the one he most recently created for Amal Alamuddin Clooney.
But Oscar de la Renta was also a favorite among America's first ladies. He was a particular favorite of Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush. And he was very outspoken about his powerful clients. "Hillary Clinton was more difficult," de la Renta told the New York Times in a 2002 interview. "Remember, she was coming from Arkansas. Mrs. Reagan was a movie star, and she knew how to dress, but Mrs. Clinton [is] very prudish. She has lovely shoulders and a very nice décolleté. Before I die, I'm going to get her in a strapless dress."
In some of the most iconic photos of past president's and their wives, de la Renta will live on in the floor length gowns of inaugural balls and presidential dinners. Here are a few first ladies wearing the designer.
Nancy Reagan was known for her beloved red dresses. At her husband's Presidential Library a display is set up to show a few of her favorites. The dress on the right, with the long lace puff sleeve and v-neck bodice is an Oscar de la Renta design worn by Nancy Reagan at the 1988 president's dinner where Reagan endorsed George H. W. Bush's candidacy for president. It was one of several de la Renta pieces Reagan wore during her husband's presidency.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Of all the first ladies to wear Oscar de la Renta, Hillary Clinton did it the most frequently. Clinton appeared in a velvet Oscar de la Renta dress when she appeared as the first first lady on the cover of Vogue. She also wore a gold, floor-length embroidered de la Renta gown to Bill Clinton's 1997 inaugural ball. Since then, Clinton has also worn the designer to the 2002 Council of Fashion Designers of America gala, Barack Obama's 2008 inauguration, and to her daughter's 2010 wedding. "His singular talent and exquisite taste elevated American fashion, and his warmth and friendship will be missed by our family and all whose lives he touched in his extraordinary journey," said the Clinton family in a statement.
Oscar de la Renta was a solidly bi-partisan designer, beloved by Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush alike. Bush wore a floor-length silver gown to President Bush's 2005 inaugural ball. In a statement after the designer's death, Bush said, "My daughters and I have many fond memories of visits with Oscar, who designed our favorite clothes, including Jenna's wedding dress. We will always remember him as the man who made women look and feel beautiful."
Unlike her predecessors, Michelle Obama has been hesitant to embrace de la Renta as the de facto designer of first ladies' gowns. Instead, she favored designers like Michael Kors, Jason Wu, or even J. Crew, which did not escape de la Renta's notice. But in early October, less than two weeks before his death, Obama wore her first Oscar de la Renta ensemble at a cocktail party after her White House Fashion Education Workshop.