De la Renta to join Clintons and pantsuit in Ark.

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By JEANNIE NUSS, Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — It's not quite "Project Pantsuit," but it's not far off.

Hillary Rodham Clinton will be on hand Monday to honor fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, the man responsible for the teal, silk pantsuit she wore when she was sworn in as senator and that will stand on display alongside some of his other notable pieces at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock.

The two shared the stage together last month in New York when Clinton, a self-professed pantsuit aficionado, presented de la Renta with the Council of Fashion Designers of America's highest honor and joked about a fictional "Project Runway" spinoff, "Project Pantsuit."

Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and former President Bill Clinton will also attend Monday's celebration of the temporary exhibit, "Oscar de la Renta: American Icon," which opened in May and runs through Dec. 1.

Hillary's teal pantsuit, which is so recognizable it hardly needs a placard identifying whose it was, stands near a red, cashmere outfit Laura Bush wore in 2008 and a beige ensemble Nancy Reagan donned a decade earlier. The exhibit also showcases some of de la Renta's creations worn by other notable figures, including actress Anne Hathaway.

On the wall of the exhibit is a quote from the former secretary of state: "Oscar de la Renta is the ultimate statesman of American fashion. His name alone evokes shimmering elegance and timeless beauty that has helped define global style for generations. He is a true American original."

Nearby, flowers bloom from a handful of the designers evening gowns. Another array of dresses pays homage to the Dominican-born designer's time in Spain. A mannequin wearing a black-and-white polka dot mermaid dress pauses as if frozen while dancing flamenco, her arms snaking through the air.

"What I saw in Spain colored the way I have looked at clothes ever since," de la Renta says in a quote on the wall.

The former first ladies' outfits don't look quite like they walked off the streets of Seville, but they're still clearly de la Renta — a designer who has built relationships with a number of women in the White House.

"Oscar has been a dear friend to me, and many other First Ladies. His designs are truly beautiful and exemplify American style," Laura Bush said in a quote near the red suit she wore five years ago for the White House Holiday Press Preview.

Hillary Clinton also called de la Renta a "dear friend" when she presented him with the CFDA's Founder's Award last month.

She recounted first meeting him as first lady in 1993 during a White House receiving line for a Kennedy Center event. De la Renta came up to her and said, "That's one of my dresses," Clinton recalled at the awards ceremony last month.

In Little Rock, visitors see reproductions of a couple of de la Renta dresses Clinton has worn over the years, but the pantsuit stands out.

The signage surrounding the outfit Clinton wore when she was sworn in as a senator in New York, much like her new Twitter biography, plays on her penchant for pantsuits.

The potential 2016 presidential candidate calls herself a "pantsuit aficionado" on Twitter. However, the wording on a placard at the exhibit — much like the exhibit itself — is much more highbrow.

"Pantsuits designed by Oscar de la Renta are perhaps Hillary Clinton's most famous sartorial statement," a sign says.

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Follow Jeannie Nuss at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss

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