New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

Who Wants To Be A Socialite?

Jean Shafiroff & Victor de Souza
(All photos: Laurel Marcus)

Though it would be timely to contemplate the (spring) chicken and egg, today’s question is a different “which came first?” conundrum. So which came first: the socialite or the party? I’m going to say it’s the party since the socialite is always fashionably late, even when she’s the hostess. Last night I attended a cocktail party at Madame Paulette (yes, the prestigious / ridiculously expensive dry cleaner!) given by diminutive powerhouse Jean Shafiroff to showcase Victor de Souza’s F/W 2015 collection. Madame Paulette’s windows often contain interesting mini-exhibits of an historic or fashionable nature; for the soiree they featured mannequins attired completely in VdS brocades and other exotic textiles befitting a fall collection.

Victor de Souza in front of display window

The designer himself came bounding outside wearing a floral denim suit of his own creation, bien sur. He surveyed the windows and commented that it was not so easy to round up and dress 18 mannequins on short request yet, when asked why he didn’t have human models he mentioned preferring the inanimate figures. “The last time I used models, one was fainting and one was throwing up” he remarked in a wry TMI moment. Walking back inside the vestibule I turned over my coat to the makeshift coat check aka dry cleaning window, hoping I would see it again at the end of the evening rather than sheathed in plastic next Tuesday.

Joy Marks

Rose wine provided by Notorious Pink and sparkling water were proffered although the “sweets provided by Maribelle” never seemed to materialize. In rapid succession I spy the “usual suspects” of Rosemary Ponzo in red, Joy Marks in emerald green (her husband Alan arrives a minute later wearing one of her elbow length white gloves as a scarf which he quickly returns to her) and Barbara Regna in white.

Montgomery Frazier shooting “selfie” with friends

No one can compete with the sartorial splendor which is Ben Mindich and Montgomery Frazier who mix pattern, color and texture to great effect. Ms. Shafiroff arrives, not in her usual ballgown but in a lovely rosy red strapless jumpsuit which I recognize from Victor’s SS 2015 collection. Red turns out to be the color of the evening. There are at least four other guests in flame colored dresses including Ms. Ponzo who adds that she made her dress herself and likes the hue much more than the winter white that she wore at last December’s Botanical Ball.

“Face necklaces”

Ms. Shafiroff is in a particularly ebullient mood and wants everyone to experience what it’s like to be a socialite for a day. That includes me. “Get a photo of us and make sure you spell her name right!” she admonishes photographer Liam McMullan while we pose together. “She needs more exposure.” I am introduced to a “real journalist” from the Daily News. Another Shafiroff friend, photographer /studio owner and gorgeous redhead Amber De Vos shows us how to take a good selfie by holding the phone on high and looking up at the light; sucked in cheek bones and duck face optional. (Note to self re: selfies: it’s gonna take a lot more than that to make me Instagram ready!) I speculate on how many former patients of the late Dr. Brandt are here tonight. Interestingly, VdS’s collection features gold Middle Eastern looking “face necklaces” falling somewhere between the Givenchy cheek piercings and the masks seen on the Margiela runway. I guess those could solve any “I forgot to get my Botox injection” issues which could arise.

Chiu-Ti Jansen

Meanwhile my black jet embellished shoe booties that are “everything” according to a gentleman shod in an interesting pair of black and white brogues, are starting to bite. If “everything” means excruciatingly painful then he’s nailed it. Chiu-Ti Jansen in the tiniest metallic brocade hot pants, fuchsia cropped jacket and furry boots arrives and, all kidding aside, I have not seen a waist that small since I dressed my Barbie. In fact, Victor has to make some adjustment to the shorts to cinch them in as they have come unfastened in the back. One perk of being a socialite: It’s good to have a fashion designer in the house and at your disposal to clothe you, dress you and be a clothes hanger for. Other gossip: John Mahdessian, the son of the founders of Madame Paulette is here and although he seems to be flying solo tonight, he is dating Dorinda Medley, the newest “RHONY,” for those who follow these things.

Jean with Lookonline publisher Ernest Schmatolla

As for becoming a socialite, even if I had the clothes / looks / money, to quote Manolo Blahnik in The New York Times regarding his upcoming FIT award (he will receive the Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion in the fall) “It’s such an effort. You have to talk to a million people. You have to be pleasant.”. In the case of the socialite, you also have to be out every night, sometimes changing your clothing along the way as you hop from event to event as Jean has been known to do. Actually, when you think of it that way, hosting a party at a high-end dry cleaner makes a lot of sense.

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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