Sunday, April 22, 2012

Smithson Gala: The Report

Last night's gala was just amazing. Okay, they all are, but every year I'm blown away by how special the evening is. The reception started at 7:00 pm, and I didn't leave until well after 10:00 pm. They were in no hurry to rush us out, to make up for last year's gala, when they had to have everyone out of the building by 9:00 pm because of the threat of the government shutdown at midnight. Luckily there was no such pressure this year!

First of all, some observations.
  • There was quite a lot of "understated glitz" in the dresses. I spotted quite a lot of sequins, beads and sparkles, but nothing outrageous or flashy... it was all very elegant and composed.
  • At last, the men were getting in on the fun! Different colored ties, vests, cummerbunds... a few white jackets, too. Several men in military dress uniforms. And one in a kilt.
  • Monochromatic and tone-on-tone predominated. Very few prints. One or two "art to wear" jackets.
  • More shorter skirts (although long still prevailed).
  • More straight skirts and sheaths, with just a few A-line or wider skirts. Nothing poufy.
  • Lots of ruffles.
  • One or two very unfortunate outfits, including one that resembled a 1980s bridesmaid dress in moire fabric that did not flatter the wearer. Also, one young lady in a short-skirted ensemble, all very dark navy, including her tights... and with chartreuse pumps.
Now, on with the pictures!

By the way, I must apologize for the (lack of) quality of the pictures. The venue was quite dim, and I tried taking pictures without a flash to be unobtrusive. But many of my pictures were blurry, so I'm only sharing the ones that at least show some of the details.

The cover of the program.

 Me with my friend Margaret, who wore a lovely sheath of a deep red slinky knit. So very elegant!

There were several dresses with this tiered ruffle effect. Most were pretty flat ruffles, like this, but there were a few fluffier ruffles too.

One of the guests at my table, in his striking vest. He has worn other interesting outfits to previous galas: I think my favorite was the one year when he wore a Neoprene jacket.
On the right is Christine Mullen Kreamer, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the National Museum of African Art. She was the host at our table.

 Virginia Clark, Director of Advancement and Philanthropic Giving for the Smithsonian, in one of her beautifully tailored silk pantsuits.

Because Bob was unable to attend due to a business meeting in Chicago, I asked fellow sewing enthusiast Jennifer Georgia to be my guest for the evening. She made her outfit as well, pairing a mauve silk charmeuse with a burnout velvet shawl.

Heather is another Smithson member who makes her outfit every year. This year's was just lovely: a fully boned corset over a wide circle skirt. The fabric had a subtle ripple to it. She said she was inspired by the necklace she wore with the dress, a gift from her husband.

 The back of Heather's dress, showing the corset lacing. I'm now convinced I need to make a corset for myself.

This short sparkly dress is really as flashy as it got. There really were no truly "daring" gowns; a few low-cut or deep V fronts or backs, but nothing too risque.

I counted at least six solid red dresses, and there were probably more I didn't see. It certainly was the flashy color of the evening!

Red and ruffly!

I think this was the only tailcoat.

And this was the only kilt I saw. Oh, and see the gentleman just to his right? He was walking through the crowd, gently tapping on a handheld chime, to announce that it was time to head downstairs to dinner.

 The guests moving towards the dining venue: the central courtyard of the Portrait Gallery.

 Jennifer's outfit.

Jennifer and me at dinner. I'm wearing a necklace of chocolate pearls that Jennifer loaned me; it was the perfect complement to the dress! (And yes, I got lots of compliments on the dress!)

The Menu...

 One thing is for sure, the food at the Gala events is always top-notch and delicious. This time I remembered to take pictures of it, too!

 Dr. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian, speaking to the guests before dinner.

 The appetizer (it was prettier when it was served... I had already shuffled around the melon and taken a bite before remembering to take a picture!)

The main course. The green oval is the Asparagus Timbale; I'm going to have to figure out how to make it because it was just yummy.

 The desserts are always worth waiting for. This was one of three dessert buffet tables, and there were more treats being passed (including the cutest little baby ice cream cones... each one about two inches tall!).
 My dessert plate, which included a meringue lollipop, milk chocolate caramel, two macarons, a s'mores lollipop, a few different fudge confections, and a creme brulee.

One of the passed desserts: a lollipop consisting of a swirl of dark chocolate and a single raspberry.

Yeah, I was pretty much stuffed. But it was all soooooo good!!

My souvenir! I got to take home one of the centerpieces.

So that's another Smithson gala done with. Thanks so much for being a part of the fun! I love sharing the dressmaking process with you, and sharing the pictures from the event too. I know I'll be wearing my dress again in January, when Bob and I go to Las Vegas for the annual Home Inspectors conference, which means I'll need to make a tie and cummerbund for Bob out of the copper charmeuse, but I've got a few months to get that done!!


  1. Wow, did you ever look fabulous in that dress, and the jewelry and your hair looked terrific too. You were positively glowing for this event.

    Thank-you for the nice coverage and I'm already looking forward to seeing what you'll be creating for next year's gala.


  2. As in years past, I thoroughly enjoyed your 'review' of the Smithson Gala! You and your dress look smashing! Very 'Titanic'! That fabric was just a great find and you handled it well...nice!


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