Ten Houston women were honored for their philanthropy and personal style before an enthusiastic crowd of 600 at the 35th annual Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Luncheon in the ballroom of the new Marriott Marquis hotel in downtown Houston. The much-anticipated event also found two dynamic men in the spotlight as well.
Neiman Marcus fashion director and senior vice president Ken Downing jetted in after a month viewing the latest styles in New York, Paris, and Milan to introduce the Brunello Cucinelli fall collection, which was showcased in a glittery runway show. Downing, who has been a blonde for as long as anyone can remember, sported new brown locks.
And philanthropist Lester Smith, looking hale and hearty after recuperating from a double lung transplant, attended with his wife, Sue Smith, and received a warm reception.
Carol Linn, who entered the Best Dressed Hall of Fame reserved for those who have have been named to the list three times, and first-timer Jessica Rossman, were each greeted with noisemakers from enthusiastic friends and significant others as they strolled the runway. Linn wore a floral Naeem Khan dress while Rossman chose a pale pink Cushnie et Ochs dress.
Other Hall of Famers were Jana Arnoldy, in a colorful Dolce & Gabbana dress evocative of one of her favorite vacation spots, St. Barth's; Gina Gaston Elie in a Prada feathered skirt and two-tone blouse; and Lisa Holthouse, in a Brunello Cucinelli pants ensemble. Other first timers on the Best Dressed runway were Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl, Mary D’Andrea, Carolyn Dorros, CleRenda McGrady, and Sneha Merchant.
Houston Chronicle chairman Jack Sweeney and fashion writer Joy Sewing peppered their commentary on each recipient with some humorous asides. They noted that Holthouse loves dancing on tables, McGrady boxes three times a week (so don't mess with her), and Rossman calls her Jimmy Choos "the new power suit."
Chairs Kristy Bradshaw and Isabel David, who greeted the crowd, were thrilled that the luncheon raised over $500,000 for the March of Dimes mission to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. The luncheon also had a poignant moment as Laura Ryan, with husband Michael Ryan, shared the story of how she went into premature labor at 24 weeks, giving birth to twins weighing only 1 lbs 5 oz. and 1 lb 9 oz. They lost their daughter but their son survived and is now 2.
March of Dimes national president Stacey Stewart noted that the nonprofit has invested $16 million in research dollars in the Texas Medical Center over the past decade. "Today the biggest enemy of infant mortality is preterm birth: Babies who are born too early, too soon," Stewart said. "Our strategy is simple: to prevent the preventable and discover the unknown causes."
Raffle chairs Ting Bresnahan and Sippi Khurana rounded up such prizes as a $5,000 shopping spree at Neiman Marcus, The Georgetti Experience trip to Milan, dinner for 10 at La Table, and a two one-night weekend stays at the Marriott Marquis. Laura Greenberg and Susan Plank were the winning bidders on a live auction item of an exclusive trip to Milan Fashion Week.
Seen in the well-dressed throng (who endured up to a 45-minute wait to get their cars from the valet at the end of the luncheon) were Leisa Holland-Nelson, Divya Brown, Sheridan Williams, Lynn Wyatt, Vivian Wise, Rosemary Schatzman, Neiman Marcus general manager Bob Devlin, Diane Lokey Farb, Mario Elie, Scotty Arnoldy, Lindley Arnoldy, Katie Arnoldy, Gordon Bethune, Michael Holthouse, Merele Yarborough, Phoebe Tudor, Renu Khator, Claire Cormier-Thielke, Duyen Nguyen, Lucinda Loya, and Tiffany Smith.