By Chris Francescani
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The fashion world mourned the loss of one of its greatest designers on Monday at the private funeral of Oscar de la Renta, who died of cancer last month at 82.
The tall Dominican-born de la Renta dressed New York socialites, Hollywood stars and American first ladies during a career that spanned five decades.
Young women in black dresses checked in impeccably dressed guests at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Designers Valentino and Diane von Furstenberg were among the first to arrive, followed by director Mike Nichols and his journalist wife Diane Sawyer, designers Tommy Hilfiger and Donna Karan, Chelsea Clinton, journalist Barbara Walters, photographer Annie Leibovitz and actor Hugh Jackman.
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, pulled up in a black sedan and entered the church shortly before the service began at 11:15 a.m.
Fans and photographers were kept behind police barricades that stretched a city block at the imposing church on Park Avenue.
"He was an icon and a guru of fashion and a wonderful man who changed people's lives in fashion," said 44-year-old Kim Wolfe of Manhattan.
"His couture and his design were really created for the sophisticated lady, not necessarily of the 21th century, but of a lady that once was."
De la Renta died at his home in Connecticut on Oct. 20, surrounded by his family, friends and more than a few dogs. As news of his death spread, Hollywood stars and former first ladies whom he dressed expressed their condolences.
Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who wore a plum-colored de la Renta gown to her daughter Chelsea's wedding in 2010 and a beaded gown for an Inaugural Ball, credited de la Renta's exquisite taste for elevating American fashion.
De la Renta's designs were known for their detail, fabrics and embroideries. His classic creations ranged from fitted suits to pastel and floral print dresses to elaborate, flowing ball gowns that were favorites on the red carpet.
Actresses Sarah Jessica Parker, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner, Tina Fey, Cameron Diaz and Oprah Winfrey chose his gowns for award ceremonies.
Most recently, de la Renta created the lace, off-the-shoulder wedding gown worn by London-based human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin for her September wedding to actor George Clooney in Venice, Italy.
De la Renta was also known for his philanthropy, particularly in his native Dominican Republic, where he had a home. In 1982 he established La Casa del Nino for underprivileged children there.
President Danilo Medina led the nation in mourning and praised the designer for changing the lives of thousands of children in the country.
Dominican Foreign Minister Andrés Navarro credited de la Renta for being "a permanent ambassador of our country abroad" and for raising the nation's international profile.
(Writing by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Dan Grebler and Lisa Von Ahn)