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Ain't Life Grand

HOUSTON -- The weather was so gorgeous for typically hot, humid Houston, that people couldn't stop talking about it. "It's a perfect night for women to wear lovely dresses," said Carolyn Farb, who came to the $1,000-a-ticket Grand Opera Ball at the...

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HOUSTON -- The weather was so gorgeous for typically hot, humid Houston, that people couldn't stop talking about it. "It's a perfect night for women to wear lovely dresses," said Carolyn Farb, who came to the $1,000-a-ticket Grand Opera Ball at the Wortham Theatre Center with Compaq Computer's ceo, Eckhard Pfieff.

As each cluster of the 500 or so guests strolled onto the Wortham Plaza, they were heralded by trumpeters dressed in Louis XVI court costume for the ball's theme, the Golden Age of the Paris Opera. Because Houston's weather is usually so challenging, party guests often find themselves and their resplendent clothes squished into ballrooms. Tonight, everyone spread out on the plaza, and dresses and jewels glowed against a pale sunset.

Most women donned lavish jewelry and full-skirted ball gowns by such designers as Arnold Scaasi and Zandra Rhodes. Ball co-chair Danielle Ellis, looking like an exotic butterfly, had on a silk gown of bright greens, pinks and reds designed by Houstonian Ivy Stone, and a thick, triple-tiered Christian Lacroix choker. Aileen Gordon drew attention with her massive, long necklace of emeralds, rubies and diamonds. Her husband, jeweler Harry Gordon, who designed it, asked a photographer taking pictures if she had an insurance policy on her camera lens. "I've broken four," he growled. The photographer managed to edge away unscathed.

Lynn Wyatt mixed and matched, with a stiff white satin skirt by Bill Blass, a sheer black, lacy Lacroix top, and a yellow-and-black Ungaro wrap. "Put it all together and it spells opera ball," she said gaily. Some of the guests preferred the slim and slinky look: Sylvia Crispen wore a svelte peach Holly Harp dress.

The Wortham foyer was decorated to evoke the Paris Opera, with a small replica of the famous Chagall ceiling mural hanging from wires over the room, trompe l'oeil red velvet swags painted on the balconies and giant caryatids bearing floral arrangements.

The evening raised approximately $400,000 for the opera's operating costs in the coming year.
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