“There is no more New York society,” declared one gentleman, old enough to reminisce about Andy Warhol, as he surveyed the scene at the Museum of the City of New York’s Winter Ball Wednesday evening. That depends on your definition of “society.” Certainly, the packed room at The Pierre and the three deep lines at the bars spoke to some desire among a certain breed of New Yorkers to socialize while wearing decadent gowns by one of the night’s sponsors, Oscar de la Renta (the other, Taffin by James de Givenchy, doubtlessly iced a few women, too). As Heather Mnuchin—once a regular on the Manhattan circuit and now residing in Los Angeles —put it “It’s so nice not to be wearing yoga pants.”
So nice, it seems, that guests could not be persuaded to abandon the cocktail hour (or rather, hour and a half), despite multiple white-jacketed servers ringing chimes and flashing chandelier bulbs. Once finally ushered towards the ballroom for dinner, they tucked into steaks as Mark Gilbertson, head of the museum’s Director’s Council, stood in front of a dais surrounded by his fellow committee members, whom he introduced to unexpectedly raucous cheers for “Celerie!” (Kemble) and “Nicole!” (Mellon).
“Could we please refrain because this is not a popularity contest? We all know we’re very popular. This is supposed to be a very sophisticated evening,” he said, like a father chastising his many children. “I have in my hand the first Winter Ball invitation from thirty years ago. [In those days] people were found making out in various spots, but that was healthy fun. I don’t know where people will be making out tonight, but we’ll be on the lookout.”
It may not have been a popularity contest, but Gilbertson couldn’t help singling out Peter Copping, the new creative director at Oscar de la Renta, anointing him “fashion week’s toast of the town,” asking him to stand up and prompting many an admirer to approach the soft-spoken, modest designer. “I thought I was going to be under the radar,” Copping said to one gentleman in all sincerity. Not a chance, sir.