Every once in a while—or maybe once in a lifetime—there’s a designer who comes along and makes you want to have it all: a beautiful life, a happy marriage, and a wonderful wardrobe to go right along with it. At Martha Stewart Weddings, Oscar de la Renta was that kind of designer. When we went to his runway shows, we coveted nearly every piece: his über-feminine, ready-to-wear looks that can elevate every day to a chic event and his breathtaking wedding gowns that can take any nuptial and turn it into an exquisite affair.
For more than five decades, this legendary man, born in the Dominican Republic as the only boy among seven siblings, created unforgettable designs for first ladies, screen sirens, and countless brides, both boldfaced names and not. Simply put, he always made women of every generation feel good, never bad, about themselves. He also stuck to his own set of stylish beliefs, raising the bar higher each year. In our bridal world, he raised it to celestial heights. His wedding dresses were fittingly one-of-a-kind for what he deemed “the most extraordinary day of a woman’s life.”
We were lucky enough to know him as both a designer and a warm gentleman, one who loved flowers as much as we do and was as excited about creating a gown as he was a garden. He was quick to pass on a broad smile, his words of wisdom, and, yes, his humor. (Once, Martha asked him what advice he had for a bride choosing a dress. Without missing a beat, he joked, “Don’t bring her mother.”) We will miss his presence, but know his body of work will live on. And for fledgling designers aiming to learn from a true great, take note: Watch any of Mr. de la Renta’s shows and study those incredible creations gliding down the catwalk, each one evoking a new mood and inspiring a collective sigh. And then you’ll realize, this is how it’s done. —Elizabeth Graves