“Don’t Rain On Our Parade”

Do you know why I didn’t have to consult with Al Roker to see what the weather would be like on Wednesday, May 6th? Or why, after a quick look at this week’s projected forecast, where one could easily see that umbrellas and rubber boots would be the order of the day, I was hardly surprised that the one bright light would come mid week, on the first Wednesday in May? Well, it’s simple; the first Wednesday in May has traditionally been the date for the Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon, better known as “Hat Day”. Legend has it that it never rains on the FLO Awards Luncheon, hosted by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy (whose mission is to restore, manage, and preserve Central Park, in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future generations), www.centralparknyc.org

While yesterday’s event may not have met with magnificent summer like weather, as it has been in the past, it never actually rained, and in fact, by the early afternoon, one could actually see peeks of sun shine through (it was hard to remember what the sun looked like!) Oh, and by the way, Mrs. Al Roker (ABC Newscaster Deborah Roberts), and the Divine Miss M (Bette Midler), an avowed conservationist, were among the approximately 1200 (divinely clad) guests, who descended upon the glorious gardens. This year’s co-Chairs were Vicki Foley, Muffy Miller, Gillian Miniter, Tara Rockefeller, and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.

While Glenda Bailey, Amy Fine Collins, Francisco Costa, Tory Burch, and milliner Eric Javits were among the attendees, this is not a ‘fashion’ event per se but a fundraiser attended by the city’s movers and shakers who are on a mission to help raise money to preserve this magnificent piece of heaven in our urban jungle. Still, it is a fashion spectacle nonetheless, and hats (the more extravagant the better) have always taken center stage.

Notwithstanding the popularity of hats and headpieces these days, (they were all over the recent runways for fall 2009, and Isaac Mizrahi even turned an empty handbag into a purse), they can admittedly be tricky to pull off, and many women never really feel comfortable donning a chapeau. However, this is one event where you feel almost out of place and positively ‘naked’ if you go hatless. You might look at yourself in the mirror beforehand, and have second thoughts about your choice, thinking you look a bit silly, but once you arrive at the entrance to the Conservancy and take in the spectacle, you see that it’s practically impossible to make too much of a statement. And hey, what’s so bad about having some much needed fun, not taking yourself oh so seriously, and adding whimsy to your wardrobe, particularly during these ‘down’ times?

While I fully expected to see the requisite and predictable garden variety (pardon the pun) floral prints, pastels, ladylike dresses, tailored skirt suits, and of course, Ascot and Kentucky Derby worthy big brimmed straw hats, I’m always drawn to those women who add an element of surprise, bend the rules, and break with tradition (by choosing menswear inspired pantsuits, by putting themselves together in an interesting way, or by using their imagination with regards to their headgear). This year, in addition to rakey fedoras, there were as usual, plenty of butterflies, birds, feathers, and colorful sky high and mobile like concoctions making arresting use of flora and fauna, some of which could do double duty as a table centerpiece, and which seemed like dangerous defensive ‘weapons’ and could conceivably poke someone’s eyes out, especially if you were trying to air kiss an acquaintance. (On second thought, with the Swine Flu epidemic as of late, we probably shouldn’t be doing all that ‘kissing’ anyway!)

And because the weather was a bit cool, cloudy, and damp at the outset, there were not only more coats this time, but a smattering of furs (and not just fur trims). Unusual for May, to say the least. In addition to a fur collar here and there, I spotted a chic black broadtail cape coat trimmed with Mongolian lamb; but my favorite was a black and ivory Persian Lamb coat by Revillion (where the white fur was pieced together to make a pattern resembling a flower) which the wearer tossed over a bright, graphically floral fitted short dress by Nicolas Guesquiere for Balenciaga.

As I took in the designer clad throng, it was easy to forget that we are in the throes of a major recession, what with all the Hermes Kelly and Birkin bags (in all sizes including an orange mini which was the chicest of the lot), and of course, various takes on the classic quilted Chanel bag with gold chain handle. But thankfully, the well dressed, well heeled guests didn’t just spend money on themselves: the Central Park Conservancy just got a little wealthier yesterday (to the tune of $2.1 million!) And that’s not chunk change.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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