Don’t Rain On Our Parade: The 37th Annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon

All photos Marilyn Kirschner

Approximately 1200 guests (mostly women) descended upon Central Park’s lush Conservatory Gardens on Wednesday afternoon in celebration of the 37th Annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon hosted by the Women’s Committee and the Board of Trustees of the Central Park Conservancy.

Jean Shafiroff and B Michael

The event began with a reception under the wisteria pergola and tours of Conservatory Garden at 11:00 am, followed by a luncheon (chilled asparagus soup, curried chicken salad, and strawberry shortcake) under a heated tent, and the presentation of the Frederick Law Olmsted Award to each of this year’s honorees: Suzie Aijala, Norma T. Dana and Patricia E. Harris.

As usual, the attendees (Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooke Shields, Martha Stewart, Alexandra Lebenthal, Julie Macklowe, Lela Rose, Eric Javits, Susan Magrino, Allison Rockefeller, Katie Ridder, B Michael, Somers Farkas, Lauren Santo Domingo, Jean Shafiroff), represented a true cross-section of society including major philanthropists; prominent social figures; business, publishing, and real estate tycoons, etc. While it is undeniably a heavily female group, there is a smattering of men, and yes, of course, they wear hats. Michael Bloomberg, who was an honoree in 2011, opted for a white fedora.

The FLO Awards Luncheon is not a ‘fashion’ event but it has nonetheless become a high profile fashion spectacle in its own right, and one has to credit the late Bill Cunningham with putting it on the map and making so popular. Three years after his passing it’s still impossible to not think of Bill on this day. Ascot Schmascot! The Easter Parade? Amateur night. Kentucky Derby? Meh!

Hats have always taken center stage at this wildly popular and highly successful money raising event. Specifically, fabulously eccentric headgear that is anything but ‘garden variety.’ While not every guest who descended on the park was wearing a chapeau (or headdress), most did. It’s one event where you almost feel obscenely ‘naked’ if you go hatless.

It’s hardly surprising that many seemed to go to great lengths to pay homage to the day and celebrate nature in all her glory with their choice of headgear and coordinating ensembles which explain all the park-related themes, florals, butterflies, and birds. In some cases, it was hard to tell where the guests started, and the lush landscaping ended because they blended in so well.

You know the old adage: “You can set your watch by it” (whatever ‘IT’ is). Well, similarly, you can literally forecast the weather by the scheduling of the annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon, (the first Wednesday in May).

Marilyn Kirschner

As everyone knows, it NEVER (or almost never) rains on this wildly popular and always highly anticipated New York event and if you have been to it in the past, chances are you already have a burgeoning collection of pastel-hued umbrellas by Wathne Ltd. to choose from (the longtime sponsor’s umbrellas are handed out to gets as they leave).

Up until the last moment, there had been a prediction for rain, or at least drizzle all day, but miraculously, it remained dry. While it was not one of those picture perfect days when the sun is shining, and the weather is splendid (all the better to enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna), the fact that it was cloudy, unseasonably cool and a bit damp made for some interesting fashion moments, to say the least.

Many attendees completely ignored the weather and decided they would freeze it out in bare, wispy, sleeveless numbers that seemed better suited for a summer evening soiree. As they say, sometimes you have to suffer for fashion! On the other hand, many came prepared in sturdy overcoats and parkas. I even spotted a woman wearing a sheared mink coat over her dress. Naturally, there were trench coats. One attendee wore a feather-trimmed Burberry trench over her floral frock which she accessorized with a floral fascinator. Perfect timing given that feathers will be front and center at the Met Gala and the opening next week of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion” exhibition.

Indeed, you can say that many of the invited guests threw good taste out the window and instead camped it up with their over the top, exaggerated, fun, put togethers.

Lela Rose

You can’t get campier than a hat made of colorful pastel tulle bubbles (that was meant to be a necklace) worn by fashion designer Lela Rose. Or a hat made of almost real-life looking parakeets bought on

And at last lunch!

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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