Oscar: ‘What First Ladies Should Wear’

The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas is looking a little more glam thanks to Oscar de la Renta, the fashion designer whose gowns have been worn by many first ladies and movie stars over the decades.

“Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style” opened last weekend and features original designs worn by Laura Bush, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Reagan.

When Bush twin Jenna married Henry Hager in 2008, she wore a custom de la Renta-designed dress, and the mother of the bride was wearing Oscar too.

(Showing an independent streak, Michelle Obama has avoided de la Renta gowns, favoring lesser known designers, and J. Crew.)

The exhibition makes the case that “Oscar,” as he is known in fashion circles, knows how to make a lady feel like a grande dame, even a queen. And what a way to celebrate: The designer had a birthday this week, July 22.

In one of the exhibition’s photos, Laura Bush stands regally on the White House lawn, hand on hip, in crimson de la Renta, her adoring Scottish terriers at her feet.

Laura Bush saw the exhibition, which debuted last year at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, last week, and reflected on her wardrobe choices.

“When you are first lady,” she told the Dallas media, “there are certain fashion rules — unspoken or unwritten, but you’re aware of them always.” A first lady, she said, must look “appropriate” at all times, “lovely but not too flamboyant.”

“Oscar knows what first ladies should wear and what would look good on them, but he also knows what would be the most appropriate and the most dignified and the most elegant. And he knows the way anyone would want the first lady of our country to be seen.”

The white suit she wore for her husband’s second Inauguration Day in 2009 remains a favorite, she said.

“People gasped when I walked out. And, of course, that’s really what you want when your husband is the one being inaugurated. You want people to think that what you have on is terrific.”

The exhibition will remain at the center through Oct. 5.

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