Friday, June 06, 2014

The New York Botanical Garden's Conservatory Ball

A Midsummer Night's Dream in Early June

All photos Laurel Marcus
(Click images for larger views)

After a particularly murky and dismal start to the day, Mother Nature came through by the early evening and The New York Botanical Garden's Conservatory Ball shone brightly. Upon arriving at the spectacular setting, one felt transported to a milieu far from the concrete jungle of Manhattan.

The receiving line at the start of the tent including honoree Gregory Long, CEO and The William C. Steere Sr. President along with Gala Chairmen (who were women) Cosby George, Ann Johnson, Gillian Minter and Patti Fast, made you feel as though you were attending a wedding at a genteel, Southern country club.

Marilyn Kirschner & Ellen Walker in Joanna Mastroianni

Once through the tent, the breathtaking array of flowering trees, herb gardens and peonies were beckoning as many made their way down the paths to the unending, not-so-secret gardens. This year marked the 25th Anniversary of Long's tenure as president of the NYBG and fittingly a special Anniversary fund of $25 million had been assembled by the Board to mark the occasion. Amazingly, the fund's goal has been exceeded and $28 million has been raised. This year's theme is "Groundbreakers: Great American Gardens in the Early 20th Century and the Extraordinary Women Who Designed Them" which includes a horticultural exhibit of "Mrs. Rockefeller's Garden" in the conservatory.

Alexandra Lebenthal in Oscar de la Renta

The guests were a match for the surroundings; most women wore floral, bright colored or pastel gowns to echo the environment while men wore tuxedos or pastel dinner jackets.  It was a sight to see as several of New York's social butterflies dressed to impress including Jean Shafiroff in a dazzling rose toned ball gown by Victor de Souza, Alexandra Lebenthal (Journal Chair) in a lovely pink Oscar de la Renta mermaid silhouette and Fe Fendi as a great brand ambassador in a vibrant tiered Fendi gown with matching Fendi ombree PVC sandals.

Susan's butterfly ring and minaudiere

I also spied a Lily Pulitzer gown as well as Jamie Gregory in an interesting black & white graphic almost houndstooth-y print floral bordered Oscar gown. It was all about the accessories as Ms. Lebenthal had affixed a green dragonfly enamel pin to her back while Dr. Susan Krysiewicz showed her hand with a multi-tiered butterfly cocktail ring and tree trunk jeweled minaudiere.  

Jean Shafiroff

An aside about Jean Shafiroff and her immense ball gown collection (she always attends these events in nothing less than a full-on couture ma-juh dress) she mentioned that she likes to support some of the lesser known designers and donates many of her dresses to museums as well as to her daughters. I'm glad she cleared that up because I was picturing an entire wing of ball gowns in her home!

Fe Fendi

As the red-suited buglers played there was a much more serene, genteel, if somewhat staid atmosphere as compared to the slightly livelier cocktail hour at the Winter Wonderland Ball in December which tends to be a younger event. Still, there was much to be enjoyed and admired in the perfect night and scenic setting. There is definitely something rejuvenating to be found in a garden. As Thomas Jefferson once put it: "Though an old man, I am but a young gardener."

- Laurel Marcus

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