Back in the Thirties, the National Horse Show was the hot ticket for the upper crust. “Among the brilliant fashions [at the show] was the chinchilla cape and muff with a black crepe frock,” WWD wrote. It was also the post-Prohibition era, and the paper’s editors felt that the “younger generation [was] a little tired of illicit liquor drunk in dark places” and were ready to imbibe openly and freely. (Eight decades later, night crawlers only want to drink liquor in dark places.)
Post-WWII, WWD covered King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s 25th anniversary bash at Buckingham Palace, and, in 1969, Princess Grace threw herself a fantastic birthday party, to which she invited only those who shared her sign, Scorpio.
The Reagans dominated the party scene coast-to-coast in the Eighties, and Betsy Bloomingdale went out so often that the paper started referring to her as “Betsy Moth” (attracted to events like a moth to a flame, get it?). Upper East Siders like Judy Peabody, Nancy Kissinger, Annette Reed (not yet de la Renta), Pat Buckley and Nan Kempner kept New York arts institutions afloat with black-tie benefits, while downtown, celebrities from Michael Jackson to Mikhail Baryshnikov gravitated toward Studio 54.
In the Nineties, the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute gala started to show signs of the massive production the gala (and, some would say, the party scene in general) has become. The biggest get of that decade was Princess Diana in 1996. Twelve years later, it would have been difficult to pinpoint the party’s hottest star. “I have done this a lot before,” said co-host Giorgio Armani greeting co-hosts George Clooney and Julia Roberts, Beyoncé, TomKat and the Beckhams, “but not to a group like this.” WWD was the only publication invited to Bungalow 8 afterward where Clooney rang in his 47th birthday.
Despite all this, fashion’s hardest partier might just be Valentino, who has spent nearly half a century carousing with his fabulous and famous friends. Just before his retirement in 2007, the designer threw an enormous anniversary extravaganza in Rome that lasted for three days.
Donatella Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Armani, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, Mick Jagger, Uma Thurman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lynn Wyatt, among hundreds of other jet-setters, made the trip for the $10 million affair, which included fireworks at the Colosseum. (For more on Valentino’s bash, see page 290). According to the designer, the excitement was purely for his friends’ enjoyment. “For 45 years, everyone thinks I love parties and to go out,” he told WWD a few months later. “It’s all wrong. I love to stay home.” Since then, WWD’s photographed The Chic at events on almost a monthly basis—and is bound to catch him at many more.