This Was Then: The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Dinner with D.V.”

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The dinner scene at The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's “Dinner with D.V.”

The date was December 7, 1987. New York was at the height of its “Nouvelle Society.” The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art was holding its annual fundraiser. The evening was called “Dinner with D.V.”

Diana Vreeland had joined the museum to organize exhibitions for the Costume Institute in 1971 after being unceremoniously dumped as editor of Vogue after 18 years of service.

Because she never commanded the million dollar salary that Anna Wintour is said to command today, Mrs. Vreeland needed to earn a living. Some of her friends including Babe Paley rallied behind her and helped secure a position for her at the Met (and were rumored to have contributed to her stipend). In the meantime, she organized twelve exhibitions over the next decade or so and put the Costume Institute on the map. Another friend Pat Buckley, put the annual fundraiser on the social and money map. Everybody was happy.

Mrs. Vreeland, who was in her eighties by the time of the dinner evening named for her, was not able to attend.

Mary Hilliard covered it with her camera and this report:

In the ’80’s, attendance at the annual Costume Benefit was more fashion and social than celebrity but appropriately enough, much of the buzz still revolved around the clothes. In 1987, although supposedly moving beyond the flamboyant “pouf” era, many of the gowns were still of an extravagant nature not often seen on women today — at least not among those who buy and wear their own clothes.

One guest exclaimed, “Did you ever see such hideous dresses? It’s as much a disaster as World War III.” But Carrie Donovan, fashion editor of the New York Times Magazine, who always managed a positive spin on whatever were the current styles, declared a “return to romantic grandeur … arresting but more stately in silhouette.”

L. to r.: Baroness Sandra di Portanova as Norman Parkinson is photographed; John Funt and Heather Nye.
L. to r.: Bob Mackie and Bernadette Peters; Catie and Donald Marron.
L. to r.: Denise Hale; Betsy Bloomingdale; Carroll Petrie.
L. to r.: Cheryl Tiegs; Chessie Rayner and Donald Marron.
L. to r.: CeCe Cord; Gayfryd Steinberg; Cindy and Joe Roncetti.
L. to r.: Kelly and Calvin Klein; Donald and Ivana Trump.
L. to r.: Elizabeth Ross Johnson and Peter Allen; Henry Kravis and Carolyne Roehm.
L. to r.: Jan Chipman; Joy Henderiks; Kathleen Hearst.
L. to r.: Iris Love, Parker Ladd, Liz Smith, Arnold Scaasi, and Kimberly Farkas; Bill Blass and Lynn Wyatt.
L. to r.: Karen LeFrak; Kim Alexis; Gale Hayman.
L. to r.: Linda Horn and Richard LeFrak; Judy Peabody, Peter Allen, and Libet Johnson.
L. to r.: John and Laura Pomerantz; Jolanta and Radoslav Jovanovic.
L. to r.: Sandra di Portanova and Norman Parkinson; Norman Mailer and Norris Church.
L. to r.: Kelly and Calvin Klein with Blaine Trump; John Loring and Jean Tailer.
L. to r.: Nancy and Henry Kissinger; Rachel and Lewis Rudin.
L. to r.: Ralph and Rickie Lauren; Pat Buckley, Oscar de la Renta, and Mercedes Bass.
L. to r.: Princess Firyal of Jordan and Judy Taubman; Susan Brooks and Todd Merrill.
L. to r.: Warren and Yanna Avis; Rennie and Ellin Saltzman.
L. to r.: Paul and Mai Hallingby; Sarah Myer, Estee Lauder, and Evelyn Lauder.
“I’ve never met a leopard print I didn’t like” — DV
More from “Dinner with D.V.”

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