Woman's Dress, 2002

Woman's Dress, 2002

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This evening dress was created by internationally renowned designer Oscar de la Renta in the fall of 2002 for the House of Balmain.
Oscar de la Renta, born in 1932, was the son of a Dominican Republic insurance agent. He received his education in Santo Domingo and in Madrid. While studying to become a painter, he began sketching for leading Spanish fashion houses to help pay for his studies. He first thought seriously about a career in fashion when he designed a debutante gown for the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Spain, John Cabot Lodge. Soon after a photograph of the dress appeared in Life magazine, he was given his first professional job at Eisa, Balenciaga’s couture house in Madrid. In 1961, de la Renta was hired by Antonio del Castillo as an assistant at the Lanvin-Castillo couture house in Paris. He moved to New York to design for the custom-made collection at Elizabeth Arden in 1963, and in 1965 he joined the wholesale house of Jane Derby and became a partner in the business. After Derby retired in 1967, de la Renta changed the name of the company to his own ready-to-wear label, producing feminine, romantic, and dramatic evening clothes as well as accessories and fragrances for both men and women.
In 1993, de la Renta was hired by the House of Balmain to design their couture collection. He was the first American designer since Mainbocher to design couture in Paris, France. De la Renta worked at Balmain for ten years while also running his own company in the United States. In 2002, this dress, which was from the final collection designed by Oscar de la Renta for the House of Balmain, was shown on the fashion runway in Paris and then worn by Lee Radziwell, Jacqueline Kennedy’s sister, to the American Friends of Versailles event at the United Nations in September of 2002. It was also loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Costume Institute for their exhibition “Goddess the Classical Mode” in 2003 before being donated to the Smithsonian in the fall of 2003 during a presentation called “An Evening with Oscar de la Renta.”
This two-piece dress is constructed of gilt cock feathers attached to a silk top and a gold lame skirt. The top is sleeveless with a wide bateau neckline formed with a band of small hand-clipped overlapping feathers horizontally placed from shoulder to shoulder, meeting at the center front and back. The remainder of the top is covered with small feathers vertically overlapping in graduated rows that end in three rows of larger feathers from the waist to the hip area. There is a center back nylon zipper opening with a hook-and-eye closure. The back and bust darts shape the fit of the top with a gold China silk lining. The skirt is a column of crimped and pleated silk lame that hangs straight at the sides, ending in a lettuce-edged bottom. An invisible left side zipper opening ends with a hook-and-eye closure at the waistline. A gold China silk fabric partially lines the skirt. A Balmain/Paris label is sewn to the inside lining at the left back neckline. The dress measures 19 1/8" at the center back of the top, 43 1/4" at the center back of the skirt, and 26" at the waistline of the skirt.
Currently not on view
Object Name
dress, 2-piece
Object Type
Main Dress
Entire Body
Date made
costume nmah
National Museum of American History. Division of Social History
de la Renta, Oscar
used by
Radziwill, Lee
Balmain, Pierre
made in
France: Île-de-France, Paris
used in
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
silk (overall material)
feathers (overall material)
center back length of top: 19 1/8 in; 48.5775 cm
skirt center back length: 43 1/4 in; 109.855 cm
waistline: 26 in; x 66.04 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Oscar de la Renta
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Costume
National Treasures exhibit
Clothing & Accessories
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object