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Fashion Keeps Embracing Guns, While Guns Keep Killing Women

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) brought the message that gun violence is a women’s issue earlier this week, declaring at an Iowa domestic violence event that “dangerous people with guns are a threat to women.”

“Women can lead the way,” she added.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and prominent women such as Giffords, Hillary Clinton and Atlanta “Real Housewife” NeNe Leakes have used their platforms to bring attention to the epidemic that killed about 1,500 American women in 2012, according to the most recent analysis by the Violence Policy Center. Guns were the most common weapon used in murdering women.

But it seems like the world of fashion still hasn’t got the memo. Just last week, one dramatic style icon, Rihanna — who is also no stranger to domestic abuse — toted two gun-inspired handbags to dinner in Los Angeles, making headlines for her predictably “controversial” choice.

gun fashion
Rihanna carried two gun-inspired handbags last week. (Photo credit: x17)

Both bags — a gun-print clutch that retails for $745 and a gun-shaped purse, dubbed “Bo Gun,” that retails for $990 — are made by Saint Laurent. The fashion house also offers gun-print dresses, shirts and cardigans. It has not responded to a request for comment.

Last week wasn’t the first time Rihanna carried a gun-themed bag. A couple of years ago, Dutch fashion accessory brand Vlieger van Dam rolled out a “Guardian Angel” handbag series, and stars including Rihanna and Rumer Willis were seen carrying the revolver-embossed bags. According to the designer’s website, the bags were meant to “narrate the increasing violence and crime in the media, objectifying our addiction to fear.”

But the problem is not just violence “in the media” — and we have an addiction to guns, not the fear they create. The U.S. has by far the highest gun murder rate in the developed world, and gun murders claim about 30 American lives a day. Dozens of school shootings have happened in the past year alone. Guns are a persistent element in American culture, but it’s not one we need to glamorize.

When designers blend firearms and high fashion, they perpetuate the idea of a gun as a sexy status symbol. Prada rolled out its Lady K bag nr.4, featuring a gold-plated gun and bullet, in 2007. Days after a 2013 bill to ban assault weapons failed in the Senate, supermodel Karolina Kurkova stepped out in New York City wearing a gun-print dress designed in 2006 by Israeli-born Nili Lotan, who said it was intended as an anti-war protest. Also last year, German designer Philipp Plein sent male models wielding automatic weapons down the runway in Milan.

The low fashion world has followed suit. Urban Outfitters recently offered, and then apologized for, a faux blood-stained sweatshirt with the logo of Kent State University, where four students were shot and killed in 1970.

With 88 guns for every 100 people in the U.S., it’s not surprising that sales of fashion items meant to carry real guns are up in recent years. A women’s gun club in Ohio held a Concealed Carry Fashion Show last month showcasing designs for ankle and hip holsters, compression shorts and handbags with an easy-access gun pocket.

For those with money to burn on products to hold their guns, the Dallas-based handbag company Designer Concealed Carry has everything from Italian leather hobo bags to a “Caiman crocodile fuscus” bag that retails for $4,200.

Certainly, women who choose to carry concealed guns — which is legal in all 50 states — should take safety precautions, such as using a handbag designed to house a deadly weapon. But turning a concealed carry bag into a luxury item runs the risk of fetishizing the very idea of carrying a gun.

Designer Concealed Carry quotes one pleased customer on its website: “I love it! And will enthusiastically recommend your bags to my friends. The design features are great, the quality of the construction is superior and the plum leather is beautiful. Thank you for putting something new and fashionable into the market.”

Meanwhile, Jewelry for a Cause is taking seized illegal guns and bullet casings and turning them into non-gunlike jewelry. The company says a portion of the proceeds goes to gun buyback programs in American cities.

Here’s hoping gun control fashion like that will be the next gun-inspired style trend.

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3 College Fashion Programs Worth Knowing About

Fashion is becoming an industry that more and more people want to be a part of. But the long held belief that the only way you can be involved in the industry is if you’re a designer or model has flown way out the window.

Now, there are so many different positions and job titles within the industry that anyone with virtually any skill set could find their niche within it. So all of you prospective fashion mavens, now may be the time to break into the fashion world!

But how does one even get started in that illustrious, glamorous industry?

Well, fashionistas, like most jobs, having a degree in your desired field within the fashion industry, while not required, is going to be very beneficial.

Many people, though, don’t know what’s available out there when it comes to fashion programs. But just like any other college decision, finding the right fashion school and/or program simply takes some time and research.

There are tons of options out there, so you’ll be able to find just what you’re looking for. Here are some highlights you’re sure to come across in your search for the perfect fashion school or program.

Parsons: The New School For Design

New York City, NY

Anyone who has considered entering the fashion industry has heard of Parsons. It’s probably the most prestigious and well known fashion school we have in the United States and it’s located in one of the fashion capitals of the world: New York City.

According to, it’s their number one school you should be looking into if you’re trying to pursue a degree in fashion. They go as far as to call the school a “fashion design powerhouse.”

And they aren’t wrong in their claim. Parsons has produced some of the fashion industry’s greatest designers, such as Tom Ford, Alexander Wang and Donna Karan, just to name a few.

The great thing about having all of these prestigious alumni is that many of them come back to the school to teach the next generation. If Parsons is the school you’re looking into, know that you’ll be instructed by some of the industry’s most talented people.

But what if you’re not looking specifically for design? Well, aside from offering a degree in fashion design, at Parsons you can also get your degree in Fashion Studies and Fashion Marketing.

While Parsons isn’t necessarily known for these two programs, any potential employer in the industry is going to eat you up with any degree from Parsons.

Kent State University

Kent, OH

When people think of fashion, Ohio is not something that comes to mind. However, if you’re in search for the perfect fashion program, maybe it should be.

Kent State offers programs in both fashion design and fashion merchandising. But the cool thing about this college is that it isn’t a fashion school. That being said, if you’re looking for a true college experience as well as a great fashion degree, this may be the program for you.

Some of you might be thinking that since it isn’t a fashion school, its program probably isn’t that great, but let me tell you, you’re wrong! There are fantastic opportunities, like studying abroad in Paris or Milan and they have a garment studio located in NYC that some students get to go to every year, proving that Kent State’s program can keep up with any fashion school.

Academy of Art University

San Francisco, CA

On, the Academy of Art University in San Francisco lands as number five on their list of top 20 fashion schools in the U.S., and rightfully so.

This school offers a degree in fashion design like most other fashion schools, but also offers a degree in Knitwear Design or Textile Design as well.

You can also walk out of the Academy of Art with a degree in Fashion Journalism and/or Fashion Merchandising and Marketing, making this school a comprehensive choice if your interests within the industry overlap or simply if you’re looking for a school that offers more than just a design degree.

That’s not the only thing the Academy of Art has to offer you, though. This school is the only school that puts on a fashion show at New York Fashion week. If this is the school for you, you can look forward to potentially participating in this. How cool is that?!

These schools and programs are just a small handful of all of the fashion schools and programs available out there and they may not be the right choice for you.

Finding the perfect program for you just takes some time, effort and research, but if you’re dying to break into the fashion industry like so many others, it’s definitely worth it.

Happy searching, fashionistas!

(By: Kristen Peuvion, University of Illinois)

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Remembering Oscar de la Renta at the Fashion Group International Awards

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Fall Fashion Gets It White

Zara's faux fur coat, £89.99, being worn with aplomb by Garance Doré on the streets of Paris.

Whistles Harrison cropped parka, £155

Hamp;M’s warm and comfy cable-knit jumper, £34.99

Isabel Marant’s très chic Sao alpaca and wool-blend sweater, £515, available at Net-a-Porter

Maison Martin Margiela’s MM6 high-waisted tapered-leg crepe trousers, £283, available at Matches Fashion

3.1 Phillip Lim’s skirt-effect satin straight-leg pants, £515, available at Net-a-Porter

Raw-cut flared skirt from Cos, £69

Marc by Marc Jacobs bicolor leather loafers, £311, available at Matches Fashion

THE WINTER WHITE theme has been bubbling up in the fashion world for some time now, especially among luxury brands. But the fall 2014 catwalks were awash with it—Bottega Veneta,

Isabel Marant

and Chloé did it particularly well—which guaranteed that the real shops will be, too. The high street is really very good this season and that’s terrific news for anyone who wants to do white.

But be warned, wherever you wear your white/ecru/cream/ivory outfit, it’s guaranteed to suck up dirt like a Dyson. This is why women with limo-lives carefully fold their ivory skirts or coats before they allow the door to be closed behind them. And why their white trousers are paired with vertiginous heels.

Russian It girl Nasiba Adilova in Paris.

This sort of fashion issue usually involves a church, a ring and a scary commitment; the difference being that we didn’t need the dress, the veil or the shoes for a serious business meeting the following week. And if the wedding dress got trashed—so what? You were only wearing it once (fingers crossed).

Wearing white as part of one’s regular wardrobe during the winter months requires a different form of commitment, otherwise known as the washing machine or dry cleaner. Don’t expect anyone—the waiter who accidentally steps on the hem of the coat you have carelessly thrown on the back of your chair, the woman on the subway who grazes your trousers with her wet shopping bag, or your teenage son who steps on your pristine white brogues—to make any apologies. After all, you were the one who chose to wear the most impractical color on the planet.

But the upsides outweigh the downsides. When you get white right, nothing else can come close to making the same impact, or making you look polished, fashion-forward and, frankly, rich.

This season, you can wear white on white (because fashion says it’s OK), though my preference would be to mix the tones so that you are wearing one bright white piece with other pared-down neutrals in off-white, ecru, cream, ivory or gray. You can use the gradations to play down the bits you might be less comfortable about. I would never wear a fitted white pant beyond August, but a baggy, high-waisted one, paired with a gray sweater and a cream coat? Maybe.


Faux fur is all over the shop. While this look is fine for a party or over a pair of jeans, don’t spend too much because next year, it will be so “last year.” Zara hits the spot with its chic round-neck coat in ecru (above, £90; ).

Wearing white as part of one’s regular wardrobe during the winter months requires a different form of commitment, otherwise known as the washing machine or dry cleaner.

But if you really want to do white properly, the only choice is wool. For an affordable option, try

Marks Spencer

’s Speziale coat (£199; ). If you’re in the market for a true investment piece, put your money on Burberry. You’ll rarely make a better cost-per-wear buy than its single-breasted Chesterfield in white cashmere (£1,495; ).

For a more casual look that takes advantage of fashion’s sporty edge, go for a parka. Whistles looks great right now; give its Harrison cropped parka a go with jeans, or over a pencil skirt for the office (£155; ).


The easiest way to pull off winter white is to pair a white sweater or sweatshirt with ivory trousers. Sweatshirts like Jigsaw’s silk version (£89; ) are perfect for a casual yet pulled-together vibe. But if going the sweater route, don’t go for the full Nordic fisherman look at work, or you’ll find yourself overheating by 10 a.m. Try light wool and cotton, like


’s cable-knit sweater in natural white (£35; ).

Weekends are when you can really go overboard with the cream sweater vibe, but you’ll have to part with some cash for something that doesn’t look cheap. For the most bang for your buck, go with Isabel Marant’s Sao alpaca and wool-blend sweater (£515; ).


Where skirts are concerned, a cream or white A-line like Cos’s raw-cut flared skirt (right, £69; ), worn with a boxy top and a pair of flat boots or brogues will work day-to-evening. Casual but stylish office wear means there’s no excuse not to be dressed well enough in the day to seamlessly segue into a drinks party. If you want a punch of authority, pair a white pencil skirt like

American Apparel

’s midlength Ponte (£36; ) with a gray or black top and a moderate heel.


When it comes to pants, you’ll need a splash of cash to get the best cut. For an elegant silhouette, try Maison Martin Margiela MM6’s high-waisted trousers (£255; ). Or, if you’re feeling fashion-forward, go for

Phillip Lim

’s skirt-pant combo (£515; ). Chic, understated but still unusual, you’d be hard pressed to find anything that works as well for the party season. Pair with a gray cashmere shell top.


The most refreshing thing about fashion’s new white obsession is the shoes. It probably has something to do with the prevailing “all sneakers all the time” trend, but nonetheless it’s lovely to have something other than black to wear on one’s feet during the dull winter months. In the interest of practicality, though, go for brogues that still have white—but as an accent. Pure white shoes and city streets do not a happy wearer make. Try Marc by

Marc Jacobs

’ Clean Sexy black-and-white leather loafers (£280; ), or Dr Marten’s Phyllis tassel slip-on brogues (£160; ).

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New wing of Fashion Outlets ready for shoppers

TOWN OF NIAGARA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Shoppers from both sides of the border now have about three dozen more places to spend their money in Niagara County.

The Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls opens the doors Thursday to its $71 million, 175,000 square-foot addition. Thirty-five stores will debut in the new retail wing this fall, 15 more will open next year.

The big names joining the outlet’s roster include Kenneth Cole, Vera Bradley, Perry Ellis, The Limited and The Disney Store. Together, the new additions will expand the Fashion Outlets to 200 stores, making it one of the largest outlet shopping malls in the country.

Karen from East Aurora said, “It’s beautiful. They did a wonderful job. It’s been worth waiting for.”

Niagara Falls resident Beverly Bradley said, “I’m not a shopper but I think it’s beautiful. Now that the holidays are coming, I think it’s really cool. It’s nice.”

The addition will also spur job growth.

Niagara Falls Fashion Outlets’ Mike Powers said, “Well if you figure out in the average given store may be adding ten to twelve jobs, by the time we’re done we’re going to have 50 new stores in place, so you’re looking at between 5 and 600 positions.”

Fueling the expansion is strong business from Canadian visitors. According to Statistics Canada, the amount of money spent by Canadian shoppers in the United States increased 72 percent from 2006-2012, with the exception of 2009, when there was a 2.9 percent decline. The Fashion Outlets is the closest mall in Western New York to the Canadian border.

Karen said, “They have to keep doing stuff here. I mean its such a busy area, especially because the Canadians come in, without them I don’t think this area would be thriving.”

While the new retail wing opens for business Thursday, grand opening festivities won’t take place until November 6th. The first 200 shoppers through the doors at 10 a.m. that day will receive a $25 gift card and a swag bag.

During the holidays and weekends many customers have said that parking was a nightmare. To alleviate the problem, the mall added 600 new parking spaces. So far some customers say they’ve noticed a difference.

Beverly said, “People used to be actually fighting for parking spots  and I used to hate coming out here on Saturdays, I would try to come during the week. Now there’s plenty of parking.”


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For the Bike-to-Work Generation, a Move to Fashionable High-Tech Clothing

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Oscar de la Renta Remembered by the Fashion World

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Fashion designer to open downtown Detroit store

Fashion designer John Varvatos plans to open a store on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit.

The Allen Park native told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this morning that his namesake menswear chain, John Varvatos, will open a store in the Dan Gilbert-owned building at 1500 Woodward Ave.

In a statement Wednesday,Varvatos says the 4,000-square-foot store will open in the spring.

He says it’s “much more than a business opportunity. It is also about changing the complexion of a great city and creating a different kind of legacy.”

The store’s building dates to 1891 and is known as the Wright-Kay building. It was purchased in 2011 by Bedrock Real Estate Services, the real estate arm of businessman Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert, the billionaire chairman of Quicken Loans who owns or controls several dozen buildings in downtown Detroit, had teased the announcement on Twitter.

Varvatos, who specializes in high-level men’s fashion, said he’s “almost sort of giddy” about the opportunity.

“When I grew up there, Woodward Avenue was the place to be,” he said. “I loved hanging out on Woodward Avenue. So it was a great place to be. You can sense that it is starting to come back.”

Gilbert called Varvatos’ move “a big statement” for Detroit.

Varvatos is already known to metro Detroit for the limited-edition Chrysler 300C named after him.

“I’m back all the time, my family’s still there, so it’s actually one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done since my business (started) in 2000,” he said. “

He said he’s ready to bring “international and national fashion people and designers into downtown Detroit.”

Asked about the financial and demographic reasoning behind the investment, Varvatos said: “You can’t always look at the numbers. You really can’t. Detroit is one of those cities that has been pushed out to the suburbs. There’s this influx of young, affluent people moving to downtown Detroit again. It’s less about the demos you’re looking out than it is your gut.”

In a 2012 interview with the Freep Press, he was asked about Detroit’s impact on his success:

“I try and come back at least two or three times a year, I wish I could come back more. But last time I was there I went to the Magic Bag to listen to music, and still, everywhere I go, I’m people-watching. I love seeing what people are wearing in the street when I’m at Greektown or when I’m at the airport. But there’s definitely a unique Detroit style.

“For me, rock ‘n’ roll was part of my roots growing up. I collected all this rock photography, some of the most amazing photos, and that’s always been a huge influence on me and the way I think about fashion.

“When I was growing up, the scene included the Stooges, Alice Cooper, the MC5. Motown was a big part of it for me, too. I have always looked at rock ‘n’ roll from a fashion point of view. Detroit’s had a big influence on me.”

Contact Nathan Bomey: 313-223-4743 or Follow him on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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Oscar de la Renta’s All-American Fashion

He was the son of globalization—born in the Dominican Republic to a mother of Spanish descent and a father hailing from Puerto Rico, beginning a storied career in French couture before launching in America. His was a family of intellectuals and civil servants. He dabbled in painting before diving into the cutthroat world of fashion design. He played bridge with investor whiz Warren Buffett and once nearly got in a fistfight with journalist William Norwich.

He was a true American pioneer.

With the death of Oscar de la Renta on Monday night at the age of 82, the fashion world has lost not only a brilliantly talented artist, but also arguably the very first American designer with street cred on the world’s runways.

That his designs clothed American celebrities and the elite for decades is but one component of de la Renta’s contribution to American fashion. De la Renta began his career with Arden, working in the burgeoning ready-to-wear business. Within a few years, de la Renta had worked his way up to launching his very own label.

“I have a creative block on a daily basis,” he said in an interview with Norwich for New York magazine’s The Cut. “To be a good designer, you have to keep your eyes open. You have to understand the consumer. You have to understand the woman you are dressing.”

Once he’d scored a label, de la Renta’s rise was meteoric. He splashed onto the political scene with the silk boatneck dresses favored by then-First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Though Kennedy was often remembered as a fashion trailblazer, de la Renta’s role in creating her image—and that of American women in the swingin’ ‘60s—should not be ignored. The fitted bodices splaying out into full skirts kicked off a decade of iconoclastic rebellion in fashion while preserving a unique sense of American tradition within folds of taffeta.

“I always say in my role as a designer is to bear, to do the very best I can for that woman, to make her feel her very best,” de la Renta said in a 2013 video shot for the William J. Clinton Presidential Center’s celebration of him, “Oscar de la Renta: American Icon.”

And make many a woman feel her very best he did. From first ladies since Kennedy through Obama, Hollywood starlets, and urban sophisticates, de la Renta clothed women over half a century, focusing on the intersection of simplicity in form and breathtaking complexity in design to create pieces that were inimitably de la Renta, undeniably American.

Before de la Renta’s entrance, American fashion was ruled by copycats: Runway looks from Paris and London were adjusted for American tastes, which strayed towards the practical and avoided the cutting-edge risks that defined the European scene. De la Renta changed that—he focused on the American woman, her needs, her cultural outlook, her sense of practicality but desire to be beautiful. De la Renta combined these sensibilities into what became his unmistakable brand of strong lines, very little skin-show, sumptuous fabrics, vibrant single hues, ornate details like lace and bows and pearls that evoked a purity that was at once sultry and innocent, and, most importantly, a tag bearing his calligraphic name, scrolled in smooth strokes both delightfully unexpected and surprisingly expected, just like his line.

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Oscar de la Renta, fashion designer, dies at 82

Oscar de la Renta, the Dominican-born fashion designer who reshaped the public image of first ladies, society muses and red-carpet regulars with grand evening wear that celebrated Latin sensuality, European refinement and American versatility, died Oct. 20 at his home in Kent, Conn. He was 82.

A family representative answering the phone at his home confirmed the death but did not provide further details. He revealed in 2011 that he had a bout with cancer earlier that year.

An astute businessman with an eye for vibrant color, Mr. de la Renta polished his eponymous label into a global empire that sold perfume, accessories, furniture and, above all, elegant clothing.

During a half-century of prominence on New York’s fashion nexus — Seventh Avenue — he asserted himself as a creative entrepreneur and vivacious society player who gained access to the nation’s most esteemed women and an invitation to define how the public saw them.

He was the first Latino to be accepted into the exclusive ranks of Parisian fashion houses. Later as a U.S. citizen, he became the first American to design for a French couture house. All the while, Mr. de la Renta was building a brand that, in exclusive circles and in small-town bridal salons alike, was known by one word: Oscar.

His exuberant frocks won the trust of customers and he set formal standards for women of taste. He gave them — no matter their age or shape — the confidence to be eye-catching. “I love all his clothes because of his sense of color,” Nancy Kissinger, wife of former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, said in a 2002 pictorial biography of the designer. “There’s something very staggering about the combinations he chooses.”

Mr. de la Renta, whose dresses cost many thousands of dollars, was the master of entrance-making looks. Manhattan doyennes, Hollywood stars and Washington figures sought out his label. He designed then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s coral swearing-in ensemble in 1997, first lady Laura Bush’s twinkling beaded inaugural gown in 2005, and senatorial spouse Cindy McCain’s golden full-skirted dress for the 2008 Republican National Convention.

Just last month, he provided Amal Alamuddin’s gown for her wedding to George Clooney.

Formal gowns have long favored pale goddess-style silhouettes, and daywear often dwelled on the drab. But Valerie Steele, a historian at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, saw Mr. de la Renta’s couture influence in his bright combinations and full skirts and sleeves. “He’s a really good colorist,” and his clothes project “a European sense of decorum, a magnificence,” she said. “He has not stuck to one look; he’s evolved as fashion has evolved.”

Mr. de la Renta told The Washington Post in 2001: “When I started designing clothes for women in the ’60s, my typical customer got dressed in a suit and had lunch with friends. Today she’s on the list of endangered species.”

Many of today’s customers, even the ones with packed social calendars, now wake up in the morning and head to an office. Mr. de la Renta, through his well-cut pantsuits and jackets, goes along with them.

Oscar Aristides Renta Fiallo was born in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, on July 22, 1932. His father, who had come from Puerto Rico, owned an insurance business and expected his only son to follow him into the family trade. But his mother and six sisters lavished the boy with attention, and the family priest, a Spaniard, encouraged his aesthetic interests and bought him a set of paints. Against his father’s inclination, Mr. de la Renta enrolled in art school.

After his mother’s death, the 18-year-old Mr. de la Renta embarked on a European ad­ven­ture that began in the salons of Madrid, where he had introductions. Though interested in abstract painting, he sketched a gown that caught the eye of the wife of the U.S. ambassador to Spain, John Lodge. She commissioned a gown for their debutante daughter, Beatrice, who wore it on the cover of Life magazine.

Mr. de la Renta set aside his brushes and proceeded to fashion design jobs at Balenciaga and Lanvin-Castillo, first in Madrid, then in Paris. At night, he danced at Regine’s, among young Parisian swells such as actress Catherine Deneuve and director Roger Vadim.

At a runway show, he met Françoise de Langlade, the fashion editor of French Vogue, 12 years his senior and with far more tastemaking influence than the suave newcomer. The two began a relationship after he moved in 1963 to New York, where he set about to meet Elizabeth Arden, the clothing and cosmetics empress. He surmised later that, for all his attempts to dazzle Arden with letters and designs, she probably hired him to steal away talent from his boss, Antonio Castillo, who had long ago left her employ.

As Mr. de la Renta was launching his own line, de Langlade joined him in the United States. Later, as a married couple, the two opened their exotic and warm apartment and Connecticut country house to uptowners and creative professionals, with Mr. de la Renta honing his skills at entertaining and decorating.

As he and Françoise appeared in society pages and luxury magazines, his business took off, reinforcing that a designer could project an entire lifestyle that he inhabited. Because of the public persona that he and a few peers were developing, retail executives made an unusual business decision for that age: to leave the designer’s label in the garment instead of the store’s alone. American shopping was never the same.

In 1972, Mr. de la Renta built a grand vacation house in his native country, and even as his international status rose, he knew that acceptance was complicated. In December 1974, the de la Rentas attended their first White House state dinner, in honor of West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

In a 2002 interview for an authorized biography, Mr. de la Renta recalled getting ready at the Watergate Hotel. “When we were dressing, I put my arm in my shirt and it wouldn’t go in! The maid had packed Françoise’s tuxedo shirt instead of mine,” he said.

Mr. de la Renta ran to the only Watergate shop still open at 7 p.m. and bought the only option: a white shirt with ruffles edged in black. “It was my worst nightmare come true!” he said in the biography. “You know, I really admire people who wear colored shirts, shirts with flowers on them — but I am always afraid that if I do, someone will say, ‘Sorry, the Latin band goes in the other door.’ ”

Mr. de la Renta’s camera-ready gowns were favored by his tall and tasteful friends such as Kissinger and Pat Buckley, the socialite wife of conservative writer William F. Buckley Jr. Vogue in the early 1980s was dressing its youthful cover subjects (Brooke Shields, Kim Alexis, Sheila Johnson) in de la Renta. But he didn’t work only for the elites — in 1980, he redesigned the Boy Scout uniform.

Amid his growing fortunes was a personal tragedy. In 1983, Françoise died of breast cancer. A year later, Mr. de la Renta was moved by the story of an abandoned infant being cared for at the orphanage he supported in the Dominican Republic. He adopted the boy, Moises.

In 1989, Mr. de la Renta married Annette Reed, an heiress and widow with three children. Besides his wife, survivors include Moises and three stepchildren.

Nancy Reagan included Mr. de la Renta among her preferred designers, along with James Galanos and Bill Blass. Her mission to bring glamour back to the White House made Mr. de la Renta, known for gentlemanly manners, a natural confidant to a first lady.

He touted her as a “model-size” political wife who “knew what looked good on her and had a true sense of fashion.” She rewarded him with many invitations to the White House.

Years later, Mr. de la Renta persuaded Clinton to put aside her mostly safe wardrobe in favor of dramatic pastels.

An early signature look was the pale-blue suit she wore at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Then when word leaked out that Clinton had chosen Mr. de la Renta to design her wardrobe for her husband’s second inauguration, he would not dish before the event. “She wants to have some element of surprise,” the designer told The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan in January 1997. Clinton lit up the parade route in a de la Renta coral suit and then dazzled the balls in a gold-lace gown, with matching cape.

Soon she posed for Annie Leibovitz in the Red Room in a black velvet de la Renta dress for the December 1998 cover of Vogue, the first president’s wife to do so. In their post-presidency years, both Clintons, now New Yorkers, grew personally closer to the de la Rentas.

Laura Bush became a de la Renta devotee after her husband was elected president. She wore some of his clothes at her own Vogue session with Leibovitz. “After the photo shoot, we called for a look book,” Laura Bush recalled in an interview with The Post. “I went to his studio and of course . . . like all women, I was immediately in love with Oscar.”

For her husband’s 2005 swearing-in, Bush wore a winter white coat and suit by Mr. de la Renta, and the ice-blue tulle gown she wore that night remains her favorite by him.

Mr. de la Renta’s clothes became a staple of Bush women’s wardrobes; he designed first daughter Jenna’s wedding gown, as well as Laura Bush’s turquoise mother-of-the-bride dress.

“What I will miss so much about Oscar is that confidence he gave me,” Laura Bush said. “He had a wonderful talent — for being able to see what looks best on women, what shapes make women look their best and what colors are the most flattering.”

Mr. de la Renta was one of a very few American designers who drew the eye of an international clientele that favored the haute-couture houses of Europe. As a sign of his social smarts, he charmed those clients — Marie-Helene de Rothschild, Marella Agnelli, Babe Paley — as well as his fellow couturiers — Yves Saint Laurent, Blass, Valentino. Plus, he has attracted red-carpet icons-in-the-making: Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Hudson, Lea Michele.

His prices reflect his stature: $5,845 for a ruffled one-shoulder crepe gown, $6,235 for a feather-trimmed jersey gown, $13,990 for an embroidered floral cloque gown.

As much as the influential set shaped his reputation, he insisted that the customer was always right. “Unfortunately, success is not what fashion editors like: That is something that comes when an anonymous woman in the street wants to wear it,” he said in the biography.

Throughout his life, he emanated a joie de vivre that made him seem as if he had it all. “If my life were to end now, I would have no regrets,” he said on his 40th birthday, as recounted in “The Fashion Makers,” a 1978 survey of U.S. designers. “I’ve lived every day to the fullest, and I’ve had a marvelous time. I’ve tried to be nice to the people I care about, and ignore the ones I don’t. I enjoy what I’ve done.”

Martel is a former Washington Post staff writer.

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