No Chill in Wonderland

winterwonderland No Chill in Wonderland“I wear a gown once a year, and this is the party,” Cristina Greeven Cuomo declared on Friday evening at the New York Botanical Garden’s Winter Wonderland Ball. Ms. Cuomo, group editor of Niche Media, chose well–in terms of both the gown, a perfectly figure-hugging, strapless, midnight-blue Luisa Beccaria number, and the party she wore it to. As those with a vested interest in this sort of thing know, the Botanical Garden’s Ball has a well-deserved reputation as the can’t-miss party of the winter-charity-circuit season.

One of the major draws of the event each year is the opportunity to see the garden’s Holiday Train Show, an annual tradition in which model trains zip past an intricately detailed miniature New York. (Upon asking where dinner would be taking place, The Observer was informed by one friendly staffer that it was “just past the Brooklyn Bridge.”) Multiple dressed-to-the-nines attendees took tradition a step further this year, however, and together presented a train show of an entirely different nature: They chose gowns with trains floaty, heavy, poufy and everything in between. Our personal favorite belonged to Tiffin Schwarzkopf, who did an admirable job of ensuring that her delicate, off-white tulle confection didn’t have any unfortunate run-ins with unforgiving Louboutin heels.

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The evening’s best use of Louboutin, actually, was not a soaring pair of stilettos but a ferocious pair of leopard-print slippers (with slightly menacing spikes), which adorned the feet of Hollywood’s king of vintage, Cameron Silver. We found ourselves–along with Mr. Silver’s friend, stylist Brad Goreski–wondering exactly what the difference is between a gala and a ball. Could it be that a ball features an increased emphasis on dancing? This one certainly did. (Curious, The Observer looked it up online later: According to the Internet, the difference is that “commoners may attend a gala.” That can’t be right.)

Before any dancing took place, as partygoers were still filtering into the candlelit arboretum for cocktail hour, we caught Patrick McMullan teaching Ashley Wilcox Platt how to strike an over-the-shoulder pose.

Ashley, what did you learn?

“I learned that this is probably something that they should start a school for,” she responded. “People are getting their ears pierced at, what, six months, now? So I would say, probably, eight months. Right after you stand up. I don’t think it’s too much to ask 2-year-olds to look over their shoulders.”

Plaid-clad pal Olivia Sandelman chimed in: “Once you’re out of the womb, if you can’t stand and pose …”

“It would make looking at friends’ kids’ pictures a lot more interesting,” Ms. Platt agreed, “if the baby actually brought something to the table.”

Ms. Platt, as it turns out, knows a thing or two about pictures: Her holiday wish list this year is topped by a plastic Holga camera, to keep her Canon company.

Event chair Jennifer Creel’s biggest Christmas wish is a little less tangible: She’s just looking forward to spending time with her three children, home from boarding school. “The biggest Christmas present to me is early Christmas morning, waking up with my children and watching them open gifts, and just enjoying the moment with them,” Ms. Creel, who wore a dainty gown in blush pink topped with a furry white jacket, said. “I don’t need anything else, besides that.”

Yaz Hernández, for her part, seemed surprised when The Observer asked whether she had any special holiday traditions. “Oh my goodness, many! Are you kidding? You’re talking to a girl from Puerto Rico!” she exclaimed. “One of the most fun traditions in Puerto Rico is that we gather a group of people and–we’re big into the surprise element–we go to somebody’s home, maybe at 2 o’clock in the morning, and we bring a serenade. And they open the door, they need to get up and greet us, and a party is built!”

This sounded like the best party The Observer has never attended, so we suggested that Ms. Hernández bring the tradition to New York next year. “All righty!” she responded brightly. So watch out, Park Avenue: This time next year, you may just find Ms. Hernández at your door in the wee hours of the morning. We just hope she brings us along.

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Edited by Daisy Prince