The crowd attending the Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Luncheon has always been an appreciative bunch, enthusiastically applauding the 10 women anointed each year as community-minded style icons. But for Friday's March of Dimes fundraiser at the Westin Galleria Hotel, that show of approval was ratcheted up several notches.
Teams of supporters of a number of the younger honorees brought along glittery placards of praise and waved them about as they stood and loudly cheered and applauded their friends. First-time honorees Divya Brown, Claire Cormier-Thielke and Vanessa Sendukas had their own cheering squads, complete with cowbells, raising the energy level. Shades of the Una Notte in Italia enthusiasm.
On the other hand, when the first honoree to walk the runway, Jana Arnoldy, made her entrance, the applause was sophisticated and as elegant as the lady, and a royal highness stood to applaud her. Archduke Istvan von Hapsburg of Austria, grand master of the International Order of St. Hubertus was Scotty Arnoldy's guest at the luncheon. The gents head off to South Carolina Saturday for a shooting expedition.
"Neiman Marcus is like a family for me and I feel honored to be here." — Ralph Rucci
There was plenty of fan approval among the gathering of 520 for all of the honorees who included Hall of Fame inductees Courtney Hill Fertitta and Phyllis Williams, as well as Gina Bhatia, Estela Cockrell, Mandy Kao and Tatiana Massey.
Vying with the parade of H-Town fashionables on the catwalk were the stunning designs of Ralph Rucci, who briefly addressed the audience after his show saying, "Neiman Marcus is like a family for me and I feel honored to be here." He applauded the gathering on its noble cause of fundraising for the March of Dimes. He then was seated at the Neiman's table where GM Bob Devlin held court and Best Dressed Hall of Famer Lynn Wyatt, wearing Rucci of course, was to his right.
Leading the day's efforts were luncheon chairs who happen to be sisters-in-law, Greggory Burke in Valentino and Allie Fields in Roland Mouret. Their work brought in close to $400,000 for March of Dimes programs.
Among the very stylish crowd were raffle chair Celina Stabell, Alex Knight, Pat Burk, Jay Fields, Rosemary Schatzman, Tim Moloney, Janet and Ernie Cockrell, David Cockrell, Valerie Sarofim, Francine Ballard, Jason Fertitta, Gracie Cavnar, Vivian Wise, Ceron and Fady Armanious (coincidentally in matching jackets). A trio of fashionistas — Patti Murphy, Caroline Kenney and Rachel Regan — each departed with a gargantuan all-white centerpiece, the ladies looking like three brides.
Best Dressed Hall of Famers in the mix (those on the list three times) included Diane Connally, Becca Cason Thrash, Lucinda Loya, Pat Breen, Yvonne Cormier, Jeanie Kilroy, Lilly Andress, Diane Lokey Farb, Sheridan Williams, Merele Yarborough and Rose Cullen.