Ask an Expert: The Gown Designer

Photo: Brad Paris

Oscar de la Renta

What was your own wedding like?
I’ve been married twice—or, I will say, three times but to two women. My first wife was the editor-in-chief of French Vogue. This was back in 1967, and I said, “Why don’t we get a marriage license, and then, one day, if we feel like it, we will get married.” And that’s exactly what we did. We just went to City Hall, right here in New York. There is something wonderful and humbling about City Hall, because you wait in line with a lot of people, and there is a chapel, though it’s not a religious ceremony. I was married for eighteen years and then my first wife died. When I remarried, it was in the Dominican Republic, and I arranged everything.

You planned the wedding yourself?
I planned the entire wedding. Some friends were staying with us, and the night before we married, which was my wife-to-be’s birthday, I made a toast and said, “I want you to know that we are getting married tomorrow.” She didn’t really know.

You surprised her?
She was a little shocked, but we got married. And we have been married for almost nineteen years. Last year, we had a religious ceremony because we had only had a civil ceremony. It was just the two of us and our sons, Moises and Charlie, as witnesses.

What did your wife wear?
She was worried because she had come to Santo Domingo for vacation and felt she had nothing proper for a wedding. So she wore a white polka-dotted suit, which was the closest thing.

What did your daughter wear for her wedding?
When Eliza got married, I was so nervous that I made her two dresses. The second was the one, and she looked beautiful. She got married in our house by the same cardinal who married me and my wife. There are many emotions for a parent. I think, in a way, it’s harder for a man to accept that his little girl is getting married.

What prompted you to start designing bridal?
I’ve been doing wedding dresses for a long time, on and off. I love to do this, so I decided it was time.

How important is the veil?
I’ve always liked the traditional aspect of a wedding. I love the idea of a father walking the girl down the aisle and lifting the veil in front of the altar. Lately, there has been a lot of skin exposed in wedding dresses. I’m from a Catholic country, so it’s always a little bit difficult [for me], this idea of walking half-naked into a church.

What inspired your upcoming collection?
The eternal thought of making that day a very special one.

Even though white is the “predominant choice for any woman,” de la Renta is tickled by the idea of ignoring Victorian notions of purity. For his sister-in-law’s nuptials, he designed “a beautiful dress in different shades of red.” And though his collection is mostly white, de la Renta nods to a “sweet superstition” in the form of a little blue bow sewn discreetly on each gown’s underskirt. For another “something blue,” special-order a pair of blue-soled Christian Louboutin shoes (25 percent upcharge).


Ask an Expert: The Gown Designer