Thursday, May 7, 2015

Does anyone still wear ... a hat?!

The Champagne reception under the pergola at the 33rd annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon. 12:20 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, May 7, 2015. Yesterday was a little cooler in New York – in the low 70s. And overcast until the late afternoon. But didn’t rain.

Does anyone still wear... a hat?! All of this weather business mattered especially up 105th Street and Fifth Avenue yesterday late morning where the Women’s Committee and the Board of Trustees of the Central Park Conservancy were hosting the 33rd annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon – or what is popularly known as the “Hat Lunch” (or “Luncheon” if you insist) – held in the park’s Conservatory Garden.
From the outside (Fifth Avenue) looking in (to the catering tents set up in the Conservatory Garden).
It was sold out. Twelve hundred attended. They raised  $3.5 million for the park. The luncheon, catered by Abigail Kirsch Catering Relationships was completely underwritten by the Benefit Committee, so that the entire ticket sales figure went to the work in the Park.

The event began with a Champagne reception under the pergola and tours of the Conservatory Garden at 11:00 am. I missed that one (too early for me). JH and I were both there by 11:45 with our trusty Canons and Panasonics, to get the hats. His photos lead the way through the Diary page. The reception was followed by the luncheon and awards presentation under an elegant white tent.

Karen May, the new President of the Women’s Committee, was joined by luncheon Chairmen Patricia Fast, Tracey Huff, Alexia Leuschen, and Amelia Ogunlesi. JP Morgan represented by Kelly Coffey, CEO of the U.S. Private Bank, was Corporate Chair. This year the committee honored Michele and Marty Cohen and former Women’s Committee President Anne S. Harrison.
Luncheon Co-chairs Tracey Huff, Amelia Ogunlesi, Karen May, Anne Harrison, Patricia Fast, and Alexia Leuschen.
Karen May, Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, Anne Harrison, Marty Cohen, Michele Cohen, and Doug Blonsky
This is a serious and important philanthropic event in New York because the Women’s Committee has managed over the years through their donor connections (and family and husbands) to make a dignified way to remind the donors of the importance of their donations (and to raise more).

Hats, it turned out, are the key to the great success of this event. It all started far more modestly, as did the committee itself. But because of the intense commitment on the part of the committee’s founders and their friends who supported them, it has deservedly taken on prestige in the philanthropic community. You could almost say the fashion alliance with hats reflects the alliance with these 843 acres known as Central Park. It has entered into the realms of tradition.
Park Rangers and waitstaff in white were there to escort and watch over the guests.
The entrance gate to the Conservatory Garden originally belonged to the Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion on the block of Fifth Avenue where Bergdorf’s and Van Cleef are in residence today. The gates were donated to the park by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney who grew up in the house, when the house was demolished in 1927-28. Mrs. Whitney was also the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The Vanderbilt Gate in its original location.
Yes, very few still wear...a hat, Elaine. But I must admit I think it’s fun to see, and the women all do look beautiful. The hat enhances the attitude. Now this probably would not be so if hats were de rigueur as they once were back when our mothers and grandmothers were young women. And of course, we see what they do in the UK at Ascot and just about any formal daytime event over there.
I was thinking how a century ago when the women visiting the Vanderbilt house of Fifth Avenue passed through these gates, they were all wearing a hat: society matron or debutante or servant. Always wearing hats. Today many of the women coming through the same gates to the luncheon wear several hats, figuratively, but not so much on their heads: they run businesses, raise families, write books, and occupy almost every profession that were a century ago, for men only.

But a hat definitely lends something substantive to one’s self-image. This is true for men also, of course. There is a message, aesthetic as well as political. For the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy, it’s a bonanza. It’s made this occasion a kind of natural social competition, a celebration of self-esteem and good works for the community; a chance for everyone to put her best foot forward.
Meanwhile, back at the hats: the light was not its best for the camera yesterday. There was a lot of bright color moving around and it would have been even brighter and more stunning in the Sun. But alas, the mood of event was up.

Guests also received a gift from Estée Lauder (luxury travel kit) and a bright yellow signature umbrella from Wathne, Ltd. Décor featured florals by Andrew Pascoe Flowers, Ltd. and tablecloths by Scalamandré. It was a great day for the Park.