The Oscar de la Rentas’ magnificent Park Avenue drawing room is dominated by a brace of Jacobean portraits of the Fitton sisters—It girls of the seventeenth century—that once hung in the houses of the legendary decorator Nancy Lancaster.
“One was supposed to be [Shakespeare’s] Dark Lady of the Sonnets,” Oscar told me. “They were very ‘social,’ ” he added with a chuckle, “and they did not restrict their romances to their husbands!” The magnificent embroideries of their dresses set Oscar thinking—and happily the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace held a superb exhibition over the summer that matched Tudor and Stuart swagger portraits to miraculously preserved contemporary clothing, providing further inspiration points.
So whilst Oscar opened his show with chic, long-line ensembles in crisp navy or black double-face, reversing to houndstooth, that had a dashing mid-century Dior flavor to them, he soon began to weave in subtle modern echoes of those motifs of Elizabethan lace and crewelwork embroideries that were never, in his practiced hands, remotely costume-y. They might be used as dramatic silhouette prints, for instance—or in accents such as a thick cotton lace fall collar that gave a Charles I flourish to a crisp black-and-white-check cardigan jacket.
An ivory knit miniskirt and short-sleeved sweater were featured with pearl-edged slashed openwork embroidery—a detail that might have been taken from one of Elizabeth I’s dresses, but looked glamorously hip in this reimagined context. There was also a flurry of pretty whitework and eyelet dresses fit for a Picnic at Hanging Rock, and full-skirted dresses (or swinging skirts with fluttery blouses) fashioned for a fifties debutante (accessorized with delightful flower brooches, short gloves, and vibrantly contrasting satin heels) in scintillating colors such as duck-egg blue, pistachio, and bright coral, or in black-and-white polka dots dotted with bright-colored flowers.
Oscar’s ball dresses are nonpareil—black tulle scattered with meadow flowers and flourished with a mantilla, for instance, or a froth of strapless coral taffeta over an explosion of silk tulle. And there were, of course, the simply magnificent embroideries at which he excels—this season including lavish silk floss work shadowed with block prints that the Fitton sisters themselves might have swooned over.
by Hamish Bowles, via: vogue, Photo: Marcus Tondo/Indigitalimages.com