A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Early June



After a particularly murky and dismal start to the day,
Mother Nature came through by the early evening and The New York Botanical
Garden’s Conservatory Ball shone brightly. Upon arriving at the
spectacular setting, one felt transported to a milieu far from the concrete
jungle of Manhattan.

The receiving line at the start of the tent
including honoree Gregory Long, CEO and The William C. Steere Sr. President
along with Gala Chairmen (who were women) Cosby George, Ann Johnson, Gillian
Minter and Patti Fast, made you feel as though you were attending a wedding at a
genteel, Southern country club.

Marilyn Kirschner & Ellen Walker in Joanna Mastroianni

Once through the tent, the breathtaking array
of flowering trees, herb gardens and peonies were beckoning as many made their
way down the paths to the unending, not-so-secret gardens. This
year marked the 25th Anniversary of Long’s tenure as president of the NYBG and
fittingly a special Anniversary fund of $25 million had been assembled by the
Board to mark the occasion. Amazingly, the fund’s goal has been
exceeded and $28 million has been raised. This year’s theme is
“Groundbreakers: Great American Gardens in the Early 20th Century and the
Extraordinary Women Who Designed Them” which includes a horticultural exhibit of
“Mrs. Rockefeller’s Garden” in the conservatory.

Alexandra Lebenthal in Oscar de la Renta

The guests were a match for the surroundings; most women
wore floral, bright colored or pastel gowns to echo the environment while men
wore tuxedos or pastel dinner jackets.  It was a sight to see as
several of New York’s social butterflies dressed to impress including Jean
Shafiroff in a dazzling rose toned ball gown by Victor de Souza, Alexandra
Lebenthal (Journal Chair) in a lovely pink Oscar de la Renta mermaid silhouette
and Fe Fendi as a great brand ambassador in a vibrant tiered Fendi gown with
matching Fendi ombree PVC sandals.

Susan’s butterfly ring and minaudiere

I also spied a Lily Pulitzer
gown as well as Jamie Gregory in an interesting black & white graphic almost
houndstooth-y print floral bordered Oscar gown. It
was all about the accessories as Ms. Lebenthal had affixed a green dragonfly
enamel pin to her back while Dr. Susan Krysiewicz showed her hand with a
multi-tiered butterfly cocktail ring and tree trunk jeweled minaudiere.

Jean Shafiroff

An aside about Jean Shafiroff and her immense ball gown
collection (she always attends these events in nothing less than a full-on
couture ma-juh dress) she mentioned that she likes to support some of the lesser
known designers and donates many of her dresses to museums as well as to her
daughters. I’m glad she cleared that up because I was picturing an
entire wing of ball gowns in her home!

Fe Fendi

As the red-suited buglers played there was a much more
serene, genteel, if somewhat staid atmosphere as compared to the
slightly livelier cocktail hour at the Winter Wonderland Ball in December which
tends to be a younger event. Still, there was much to be enjoyed
and admired in the perfect night and scenic setting. There is
definitely something rejuvenating to be found in a garden. As
Thomas Jefferson once put it: “Though an old man, I am but a young
gardener.”

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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