Top fashion designers dress political spouses

Ann Romney, wife of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, wears an Oscar de la Renta dress at last week’s Republican National Convention.

NEW YORK — Designer Oscar de la Renta may be a celebrity favorite, but the feeling isn’t mutual when it comes to stars and athletes who want to delve into fashion design.

“Today you can hit a good tennis ball and be a fashion designer,” de la Renta said Wednesday. “Today you can be a movie star and if your last movie didn’t do too well, you become a fashion designer. But you know it’s a craft that you learn. It’s a craft of passion.”

De la Renta’s celebrity pals, including Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters and Sarah Jessica Parker, were on hand to show their support Wednesday as The Fashion Institute of Technology presented him with the 2012 Couture Council Award for Artistry.

“It’s interesting to me that he dresses the possible first lady, Mrs. Romney. He dresses Hilary Clinton. He is bipartisan, nondenominational, just wonderful clothes,” said Walters before finding her seat at de la Renta’s table for the afternoon soiree at Lincoln Center.

Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, donned a bold red silk taffeta Oscar de la Renta dress with cuffed sleeves last week during her speech at the Republican National Convention.

Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama has gotten rave reviews for her custom-made Tracy Reese pink and copper dress worn during a tribute to her husband at the Democratic National Convention this week.

The sleeveless dress was paired with pink pumps from J. Crew.

Reese described the dress as a “silk jacquard in an abstract baroque wallpaper pattern” with a bodice in hot pink woven with rust and copper.

It’s not the first time Obama chose a design by Reese, an African-American designer who is showing a new collection Sunday during New York Fashion Week.

In an email, Reese said, “I am so honored that she chose to wear one of my designs for such a memorable occasion.”

De la Renta’s focus now is on his next collection headed down the runway Tuesday at New York Fashion Week.

So does the 80-year-old de la Renta, who also recently launched a children’s collection, have any plans of slowing down?

“Not now,” he said. “Every single day is a learning process. And I think that to be a good fashion designer, it’s not what I did. It’s what I’m doing. You know, it’s about now.”