Hillary Clinton wears Oscar de la Renta at inaugural ball.

Hillary Clinton wears Oscar de la Renta at a 1997 Inaugural Ball. First Lady Michelle Obama didn’t wear Oscar de la Renta until shortly before his death.

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Oscar de la Renta dressed first ladies in a manner that was both regal and accessible. He provided armor for corporate executives who fought ferocious battles in the boardroom. He gave the titans of society and the ladies who lunch a wardrobe that spoke of old money and noblesse oblige. He dressed movie stars and pop stars — Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicki Minaj. – Robin Givhan

OSCAR DE LA RENTA was designer of the famous and first ladies, except for Michelle Obama, who prefers younger designers. So it was quite an event when Mrs. Obama recently wore a gown to a cocktail event, shortly before his death.

An interview on Bloomberg Politics with Robin Givhan is a wonderful glimpse into what Oscar de la Renta meant to American fashion and politics. That he was beloved by Hillary Clinton, the Bushes, as well as the Reagans, was part of his charm, which didn’t hinge on ideology.

His relationship with First Lady Michelle Obama wasn’t very good.

Oscar de la Renta did not always agree with first lady Michelle Obama’s fashion choices. This might have had something to do with the fact that she did not wear the designer’s clothes — not even once — the entire time she’s been in the White House. He had said of their relationship, “It is a relation that began poorly, and I think it will end the same way.” [Washington Post]

Shortly before his death, First Lady Michelle Obama wore Oscar de la Renta, which brought speculation of why to the pages of the New York Times.

It was also a quasi-olive branch to the social and political establishment, which loves Mr. de la Renta, as well as, perhaps, a covert nod to Mrs. Clinton, who is famously close to the designer (and whose maybe-possible presidential campaign Mr. de la Renta has already endorsed).

Is this reading too much into a garment?

Think of it this way: For the last seven years, the first lady’s clothing has been the subject of intense scrutiny, which she has leveraged pretty effectively. She wore the de la Renta dress at the public event, in front of most of the United States fashion world.

There’s no way she wasn’t aware of the messaging potential of the moment.

Nothing quite sums up Oscar de la Renta quite like what Sarah Jessica Parker wrote about him. An ordinary girl who has had a deep love affair with fashion that has revealed something extraordinary about the woman behind the actress.

This in a nutshell is what fashion can do for women. The great thing about fashion today is that you don’t have to be super rich to experience fashion’s wand.

It’s just one of the messages First Lady Michelle Obama is sending in the choices she’s made.