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,” December 7th, 1987. Photographed by Mary Hilliard.

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 ’80s, 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.

The table decor — “I’ve never met a leopard print I didn’t like” — DV
More from “Dinner with D.V.”

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.”

Bill Blass and Lynn Wyatt.
Betsy Bloomingdale.
Bob Mackie and Bernadette Peters.
Sarah Myer, Estee Lauder, and Evelyn Lauder.
Princess Firyal of Jordan and Judy Taubman.
Warren and Yanna Avis.
Norman Mailer and Norris Church.
Nancy and Henry Kissinger.
Rachel and Lewis Rudin.
Pat Buckley, Oscar de la Renta, and Mercedes Bass.
Paul and Mai Hallingby.
Baroness Sandra di Portanova watches as Norman Parkinson is photographed.
Sandra di Portanova and Norman Parkinson.
Ralph and Rickie Lauren.
Lynn Wyatt.
Linda Horn and Richard LeFrak.
Karen LeFrak.
John and Laura Pomerantz.
Kathleen Hearst.
Kelly and Calvin Klein.
Enter Blaine Trump.
Kim Alexis.
Judy Peabody, Peter Allen, and Libet Johnson.
Joy Henderiks.
Jolanta and Radoslav Jovanovic.
John Loring and Jean Tailer.
John Funt and Heather Nye.
Gayfryd Steinberg.
Gale Hayman.
Henry Kravis and Carolyne Roehm.
Iris Love, Parker Ladd, Liz Smith, Arnold Scaasi, and Kimberly Farkas.
Jan Chipman.
Elizabeth Ross Johnson and Peter Allen.
Donald and Ivana Trump.
Denise Hale.
Carroll Petrie.
Cindy and Joe Roncetti.
Catie and Donald Marron.
Cheryl Tiegs.
Chessie Rayner and Donald Marron.
CeCe Cord.
Rennie and Ellin Saltzman.
Susan Brooks and Todd Merrill.

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