Since I arrived on the very early side, I had a chance to admire works from Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Roy Lichtenstein and two portraits of Helena Rubenstein placed side-by-side: Graham Sutherland’s stately version of her in a red brocade Balenciaga look and Pavel Tchelitchew’s eerier take, a haunting, green-toned painting covered in sequins.
Waiters passed around beggars purses of caviar and coconut shrimp, while a sophisticated crowd wearing lots of real jewels and long, black dresses strolled through the galleries, throwing out choice sentences like, “That’s why it’s good to have a younger wife!” and “Oh, you got yours dirty, dirty” (in reference to a martini).
On my way out, I ran into Alexandra Lebenthal and Muffie Potter Aston, who both had mild cases of Royal Wedding fever.
There was nothing mild about the scene that greeted me at the American Museum of Natural History’s annual Museum Dance, this year sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue. Since its date occurred on the eve of the Royal Wedding, the festive dress code suggested “bold and British, hats and gloves are welcome.” Thus, entering the main lobby I was confronted with a sea of hats, fascinators, tiaras and even medieval-esque crowns (on men). “I walked in and was like, Why is everyone wearing hats?” laughed Jill Kargman, who had early plans for the next morning. “I’m waking my girls up at 5:55 to watch. I watched Di with my mom and pain chocolat and it was so memorable.”
From left: Blair Husain; Elizabeth Kurpis
She may have missed the headgear memo, but in a white and black-trimmed Marc Jacobs gown, she fit right in with the many similarly-clad gals who seemed to be taking the evening as an opportunity to test drive a wedding ensemble.
“There are some people who came here as Kate Middleton,” quipped one girl as she checked out the cream and ivory ensembles.
In fact, one girl took the idea so literally, she showed up in the same navy Issa dress in which Middleton announced her engagement, accessorized with a faux version of the famous sapphire ring. Sadly, she lacked the best accessory of all: Prince William himself. So her date obliged by toting around a mask of the Prince’s face.
A Kate Middleton impersonator and her date.
No matter, she along with the rest of us formed our own procession, to a soundtrack of bagpipes, down to dinner in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. There we had a rather un-British meal of salad with slivers of apple and chicken potpie with wild rice.
Throughout, a large screen showed a loop of aerial views of London and the surrounding countryside.
“This makes England look like Sardinia,” said one girl of the bright, cloud free digital landscape.
From left: One of many hats; another hat-clad girl.
Then it was back upstairs to the after party where guys donned colorful crowns and the bars were stocked with British treats like Malteasers, Smarties and Walker’s Salt and Vinegar chips.
It seems despite having separated from the UK a few centuries back, we still experience some colonial envy.
Photos: © AMNH\D. Finnin and © AMNH R. Mickens