Before the doors of Neiman Marcus Downtown opened on Friday, September 14, a sales associate told a friend, “Today there’ll be partying, but there will be no sales.” But like Brigadoon, the NM flagship for one day became a four-floor fashion extravaganza — the Crystal Charity Ball Ten Best Dressed Fashion Show. No doubt, sales would follow.
To kick things off, the ground floor was filled with guests sipping wine while NM staffers put the finishing touches for a seated luncheon that would follow the fashion presentation.
The second floor’s couture salon had already been totally transformed for the 10 Best presentation and a fashion show featuring Oscar de la Renta’s 2018-2019 Resort Collection. Before a run-through with the 10 (Anita Arnold, Delilah Boyd, Lisa Cooley, Jennifer Dix, Tucker Enthoven, Cate Ford, Cara French, Amy Hegi, Kimberly Whitman and Piper Wyatt), Honorary Chair Norma Hunt and Hall of Fame Honoree Robyn Conlon, NM Corporate Special Events VP Sandy Marple was personally arranging chairs and providing additional place cards for NM VIPs.
After doing a mic check, NM Sr. VP and fashion director/emcee Ken Downing, who had just returned to Dallas, told the staff he was going to have some height added to his hair. As he disappeared backstage, he was heard to say, “At my age, that’s all you have is height and hair.” The staff laughed.
After the run-through was accomplished, a very pregnant NM Downtown PR Marjon Henderson gave the marching orders to the 10, Norma, Robyn, 2018 CCB Chair Claire Emanuelson and 2018 CCB Fashion Show Chair Heather Esping. They were free to go to “Nancy’s party,” Marjon said, but they had to be back by 11:10 a.m.
Much to their chagrin, she also shared the news that the ladies couldn’t wear the on-loan Margot McKinney jewelry to “Nancy’s party” due to insurance restrictions.
No problem. After all, when at NM, there are always choicy alternatives. Claire found a faux diamond necklace. How much was the sparkly piece? $50.
Upstairs on the sixth floor, Nancy Rogers‘ pre-show party was just getting underway. Instead of as in years past, when the reception celebration for the 10 Best was in the Michael Flores Salon, Fancy Nancy had Gro’s Nathan Johnson turn the Zodiac Room into a chic lounge. On long tables down the center of the room were faceless white mannequins in Oscar fashions ruling over a garden of fall flowers in the middle of the room. Around the draped walls were couches separated by larger-than-life settings of more mannequins on stages, with shiny silver frames and even more floral displays.
Gina Betts took cellphone snaps of the displays as Dwight Emanuelson was settling into a good place. In just a couple of weeks, he’d be retiring from the board of Washington and Lee University; his wife was chairing the Crystal Charity Ball; and he was seated on a couch with a flute of Cristal. He smiled and asked, “How many glasses of Cristal are too much?
It soon became apparent that the move to the Zodiac Room was wise, as more than 75, including the 10, Norma, Robyn, their families and near-and-dear, arrived.
As Nancy made her way to the couch where Dwight was, she appeared to be like Hurricane Florence with rings of guests surrounding her. For an hour the Cristal flowed, a DJ at the entrance played music and people like NM President Geoffroy van Raemdonck, Kelli Ford, Neva Hall, 2019 CCB Chair Pat McEvoy, Moll Anderson, Nancy Dedman, Michael Flores, Muffin Lemak, Justin Whitman, Kristi Hoyl, Martha Enthoven, Billy Esping, Brian Bolke, Lisa Ogle, DeeDee Lee, Niven Morgan, Marybeth Conlon, Lisa Singleton, NM Downtown GM Tim Adair, Ginny Bailey, Jonika Nix, Tia Wynne, Tracy Lange and Conlons (papa Don Conlon, Casey Conlon, Marybeth and Keith Conlon, Meagan and Kevin Conlon) warmed up for the show that would soon take place. Getting out of school on their mothers’ special occasion were Gracie Dix and Charlotte Esping.
At one point the sound of glass crashing on the floor turned heads in the direction of one of the entrances. Seems a server had lost control of his tray, resulting in the surrounding floor sparkling with broken flutes awash with Cristal .
At 11:05 a.m., the 10 Plus 2 disappeared like stars in morning light. They quickly headed down to the dressing rooms of the 2nd floor for last-minute touch-ups. Downing supervised each one. Claire’s McKinney necklace needed to be moved higher around her neck; Tucker’s blouse needed a touch of fashion tape to keep the top in place.
As the girls chilled in the dressing rooms’ hallway, they looked like dorm residents sharing stories. It was now time for the “shoe shot” of the ladies of the hour, which had become a tradition of sorts. But some were still being finalized. So, photos were taken of their earrings. While most of the lobe decorations cost big bucks, one admitted that hers went only for the price of a nice big lunch.
In the meantime, the narrow showroom was jammed with Dallas Who’s Whos like Laura Bush, Annette Simmons, Lee Ann White, Gene Jones, Lisa Troutt, Sheila Grant, Lynn McBee, Elaine Agather, Lynne Sheldon, Regan Fearon, Georgina Hartland, Jan Miller, Melissa Stewart, Lucy Billingsley, Jan Langbein, Heather Furniss, Ashley Allen, Nancy Carter and her entourage (Beth Layton, Di Johnston and Vicky Lattner), Christina Durovich, Kim Hext, Amy Turner, Tricia George, Jill Rowlett, Amy Green, Tanya Foster, Anne Stodghill, Rebecca Fletcher, Michaela Dyer and past CCB Chairs Aileen Pratt, Connie O’Neill, Sally Berry, Christie Carter, Gloria Eulich, Caren Kline, Lydia Novakov, Pam Perella, Michal Powell, Jill Smith and Vicki Chapman with daughter Lauren Chapman.
And speaking of mother-daughter guests, there were also Peggy Sewell with daughter Jacquelin Sewell, Jan Pickens with daughter Alison Farrow, Jacqueline Fojtasek and daughter-in-law Ola Fojtasek, Joan Eleazer with daughter Layne Pitzer, Debbie Raynor with daughter Molly Raynor Carson, Billie Leigh Rippey with daughter Paige Locke, Nancy Dedman and daughter-in-law Rachael Dedman and Amy Hegi with daughter Kate Hegi.
Soon it was showtime, with Ken entering from backstage like a rock star. He got things moving right along introducing Geoffroy, who said he felt like he was “becoming a real Texan where I start liking the heat… not minding 100 degrees and more. Last weekend when it turned to be 80 degrees I decided it was time to wear a cashmere sweater. My little son Adrian looked at me and said, ‘Papa is fou,’ which in is English for, ‘Daddy is crazy.'” One guest, obviously taken by Geoffroy’s Belgian accent, claimed that Geoffroy could recite the instructions to build a carburetor and make it sound delicious.
Handlers did take note that Geoffroy did go off script. But it was a good ad lib endearing him to all.
Next up was Claire, who said she loved the way he said her name. Then she admitted having trepidation about pronouncing his name. Following Claire were Heather and Oscar de la Renta CEO/son-in-law of the late designer, Alex Bolen.
The presentation kicked off with Honorary Chair Norma escorted by her sons Clark Hunt and Dan Hunt followed by the 10. The final presentation was Hall of Famer Robyn Conlon escorted by her husband Don Conlon. The couple, some knew, would soon be celebrating their 40th anniversary.
Also getting a show of appreciation were Oscar co-creative directors Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia following the presentation of the endless stream of fashions.
There were a couple of unplanned moments during the show thanks to daughter power, though. Lisa Cooley got a cellphone salute from daughter Ciara Cooley and daughter-in-law Bela Cooley. As Jennifer made the runway’s hairpin curve, she waved at daughter Gracie Dix, who blushed and proudly smiled. When the group photo of the Ten plus Two was taken, blonde Curran Ford was spotted in the crowd. Despite coaxing from the ladies of the hour and photographers, Curran was way too shy to join the group. That’s when Ken stepped in, offered his hand to the youngster and said that he would escort her to the lineup. Curran took Ken’s hand and obediently followed his direction to her mother’s lap. Oh, that Ken once again had his way with the ladies!
But by the time the group departed for lunch, some were starting to feel the heat from the blinding stage lights. Not to worry. The fourth floor was so chilly, Fernando chivalrously took off his jacket and put it over Laura’s shoulders. One guest wondered aloud why NM wasn’t selling furs.
While the guests lunched on classic lobster salad with roasted red peppers, cherry heirloom tomatoes, hearts of palm and white balsamic dressing and roasted herb lemon chicken with watermelon, feta cheese, olives avocado and baby greens complimented with Chateau Miraval Rose (Cotes de Provence 2016) and Nicolas Feuillatte Brut of Epernay NV, the second-floor fashion showroom underwent a miraculous transformation. It tiers of chairs, backdrops and production stand suddenly vanished, and the couture salon was restored to regular order, just in time for afternoon business.
For more pictures of the day, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.