Glancing around the ballroom of the Pierre Hotel Tuesday evening, you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into a time warp, albeit an elegant one. Women in jewel-toned, satiny gowns preened beside men in tuxedos, some even sporting tails. Servers were not straight from central casting (aka, very aspiring actors) as they almost unilaterally are at most black ties these days. Glasses of Pinot Grigio were topped off with ice cubes. A woman could be heard telling her female companion, “I just want to get married already. I’m tired of working. I want to be CEO of my house.”
The occasion was the Museum of the City of New York’s Winter Ball, in its 35th annual iteration. And depending on your outlook, there is something charmingly old-fashioned about this gathering, providing as it does a glimpse into a corner of New York many may think no longer exists. Take the Director’s Council’s chairmen list: Roosevelts and Mellons and Rockefellers, oh my! The night’s sponsors were Oscar de la Renta and Taffin by James de Givenchy, which accounted for much of the stunning array of dresses and jewels, respectively.
“This is my first Peter Copping!” exclaimed Jamee Gregory, a longtime devotee of Oscar de la Renta.
“This museum must have a lot of money,” observed another young woman.
Cocktails segued into dinner with the help of an increasingly aggressive ringing of a vertical, glockenspiel-like instrument (“I think we’ve heard enough chimes, haven’t we?” sighed one man, abandoning his drink). The meal, at orchid-bedecked tables, included a speech by chairmen Mark Gilbertson, who declared, “This is my big night to tell you fashionistas and Titans of business and beautiful women to cool it, so listen,” as he tried to shush the crowd.
Raffle prizes were handed out: Alison Rockefeller won a trip to Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico and the sugar baron Pepe Fanjul took home an Oscar de la Renta dress (“[His wife] Emilia will be happy to have another one for her collection,” quipped a nearby fellow.).
As entrées made way for dessert and people headed to the dance floor, it seemed at least one gentleman had been won over by this delicate pocket of New York society.
“You could go out every night here if you wanted to, so you have to be selective,” said Peter Copping. “I’m quite happy staying home with my cats, but I’ve taken to it.”