‘In the Heat of the Night’

(The Red Carpet ‘Blues’)

What to wear when the invitation says ‘black tie’ is always a dilemma (particularly when there is going to be a red carpet), and perhaps more so when it involves the world of fashion – a group who obviously takes these things very seriously indeed. Yesterday’s www.fashionweekdaily.com featured a column (and suggested you, “read this BEFORE you attend the CFDA’s”): ‘CFDA Gala Advice: How to behave on the red carpet’, listing suggestions from industry insiders on how to act, what to wear, etc. (Closest to my heart was Vogue’s Sally Singer: “My #1 rule right now is to break all the conventional rules.”)

However, the one thing nobody talked about was how to dress for black tie and red carpet in the sweltering heat, with thunderstorms thrown in for good measure. (Hmmm, do you suppose ‘someone upstairs’ is trying to tell us something?)? Is it my imagination or are the CFDA Awards (which take place on the first Monday in June), always held on what seems to be the hottest day, and night, of the year? Last night was no exception, in fact, it was the hottest one in memory, as Astor Hall slowly filled up with guests and quickly turned into a sauna. I was not the only woman escaping to the cool and calm of the empty ladies room in order to revive myself. The cover of WWD today says it all with their caption, ‘Heat Wave’ featuring a picture of honoree and icon Kate Moss wearing a lingerie inspired nude illusion Dior couture short dress. Leave it to Kate, who was there to receive her Award for Fashion Influence, to dress perfectly for the occasion. I guess you can say that wearing something that makes you look as though you have nothing on is one fashionable way to get around the problem.

In The New York Times, Eric Wilson also brought up the subject, (“Through a Glass, Lightly, At Fashion Awards Event”) quoting Vera Wang as having observed, “I am surprised by how many long dresses there are in a room that is 102 degrees without air-conditioning.” Of course, who could have possibly anticipated that it would be so hot? Normally, rooms where events are held are so overly air conditioned one wishes they brought that little cover-up or little fur shrug. Well, luckily for the fur loving fashion folks (who never need an excuse to wear their pelts), there were no guests clad in fur last evening. In fact, the one trend is that fur is now being replaced by lightweight feathers (I guess you can call them, the ‘summer fur’) which are a current fashion craze thanks to Miuccia Prada and her endorsement of peacock feathers and other fine feathered friends.

As they say, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’. I wore Zang Toi’s beautiful hand worked peacock feathered and beaded top, and I was not alone in my choice of feathers. I spotted another guest wearing Ralph Lauren’s long white gown trimmed with white feathers at the hem. And Anna Wintour, who is known to love her little fur pieces, chose an abbreviated jacket lavishly trimmed with white feathers around her neck over a long satin bias cut gown. By the way, Anna’s newest favorite date (replacing beau Shelby Bryan) is her beautiful daughter Bee Shaffer who is beginning to look more like her sister than her daughter. The two seemingly and wisely coordinated their outfits and color scheme (black, silver, and white) as if to ensure their photo ops would be more effective.

Let’s put it this way, this was one evening where I truly felt sorry for the guys. Ralph Lauren, Alber Elbaz, Robert Burke, David Bowie, Gilles Bensimon, William Norwich, Joseph Abboud, Ralph Rucci, James Galanos, et.al, looked dapper and festive but they could not have been happy all buttoned up in the sweltering heat. Having said that, what was interesting was the number of women in gender bending pantsuits featuring fitted and well tailored jackets. Carolina Herrera eschewed her traditional long gowns and balls skirts in favor of a chic and click white pantsuit; Candy Pratts Price went the all black route, as did Linda Evangelista (her black leather blazer and blouse were by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin and her skinny black jeans were from Notify).

As for the clothing on view, it was predictably schizophrenic and proved that ‘anything goes’. While many guests were in black, there was also lots of black AND white as well as color. There were solids and florals, short cocktail dresses and long gowns, voluminous and lean. Among those who selected black were Nadja Swarovkski (she was in a short Alexander McQueen dress accessorized by some large stones….and I mean ‘LARGE’); Janis Savitt also envlivened her v-neck long black dress with multiple strands of her own coral beads. Both women proved that black is the best way to show off jewelry.

Neiman Marcus’s Joan Kaner, a longtime fan of Ralph Rucci, selected a sleek long black Ralph Rucci; Glenda Bailey, an avowed and longtime fan of Alber Elbaz, (who has been wearing a lot of his designs out and about lately), chose a knee length black chiffon dress edged in silver sequins that looked cool, comfortable, and chic. And one of the chicest women there – the legendary Catherine Deneuve, hit just the right note with her Jean Paul Gaultier age appropriate and timeless double breasted black coatdress featuring natty brass buttons. On her feet she wore gold platform sandals which gave the outfit a slightly nautical, ‘out to sea’ look.

The ever popular romantic gypsy look was chosen by Norma Kamali (her date was Joseph Abboud), who made a statement in a black ruffled gypsy blouse and red tiered ruffled long skirt (both are currently available at her shop) accessorized with vintage Joseph of Hollywood gold chunky necklaces and bracelets. New mom Cynthia Rowley wore a form fitting pale aqua satin mermaid skirt which accentuated her enviably flat tummy and svelte figure, paired with a pale ivory short sleeved scoop neck peasant blouse and beads. Cynthia, who currently designs a children’s collection in Japan, said she may be doing one for the U.S. By the way, I couldn’t help but notice that moving to Paris is obviously agreeing with Cathy Horyn. The New York Times fashion scribe looked especially slimmed down, elegant, and chic in her long brown empire waist dress.


But when all is said and done, perhaps the best quote of the evening was Ralph Rucci’s observation that the ivory sleeveless and narrow James Galanos gown worn by Amy Fine Collins was “the most modern dress of the evening.”

– Marilyn Kirschner and photos by Randy Brooke

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.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.