"We Are The August Party": Politicians and Dandies at the Couture Council Summer Bash

“Oh I love The Observer — it comes on pink paper!” said Carson Kressley, best known as the fashion expert on Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. He was standing toward the back of the marble ballroom of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, on the Upper East Side at this year’s Couture Council Summer Party yesterday. Then came a fashion tip. “You should all have pink pocket squares, you know, made from the paper. It could be a Christmas present!”

The supposed reason for the gathering was to sell tickets to the Council’s September luncheon fêting Karl Lagerfeld, but that justification had been rendered moot: all the tickets were already sold out. There were, however, plenty of happenings to discuss over a few glasses of white. The attendees! The clothes! The employment!

“There’s lot of cute boys in fantastic outfits,” Kressley said. “And most of them have jobs!”

The High Renaissance flat where the party was held was built for Payne Whitney and his wife, Helen Hay, in 1902. It was packed with guests, probably owing to the fact that in these muggy days leading up to fashion week, this would be one of the few blips on the social radar — a tragedy that was bemoaned in multiple conversations. There was a perpetual jam at the Stanford White-designed stairwell, and every minute a caterer at one of the multiple bars uncorked another bottle of wine.

Dr. Valerie Steele, the director of The Museum at FIT, had the job of pecking the cheeks of guests upon their entrance, and leading them over to the firing squad of party photographers. But how was she able to get so many people here, despite the August drought? 

“Oh it’s because of it!” said Dr. Steele. “When there’s no other parties, everyone comes to this one. We are the August party.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney was one of the guests of honor, and held her own among the fashion elites, even if she was sporting an off-white pantsuit amidst the wave of deep-plunging stunners.

“The fashion industry is very important to New York,” She said. “We’re working on keeping it here — it’s a lot of jobs.”

And at the moment, the industry’s players were showing off before us. The congresswoman pointed out Patrick McDonald’s typically outlandish affair.  Having accentuated his bolded eyebrows with a jubilant fedora and matching neck scarf, The Last Dandy of New York had not disappointed.

“Isn’t it great to see all these outfits?” Rep. Maloney said. She mentioned that she had legislation in the works that would help protect design ideas by having them deemed intelectual property. “What would New York be without Broadway? And what would New York be without fashion?”

And what would Mr. McDonald be if not standing out? With his shoes, hat and shirt glowing in turquoise, it’s clear why he’s featured in a new book — “Four Famous Dandies” — that re-imagines his rakish spiritual ancestors as paper dolls. There are few places more appropriate for an American dandy than this classic turn-of-the-century Fifth Avenue mansion.

“It’s a beautiful space,” Mr. McDonald said playfully with a gesture of his turqoise-cuffed hand. “It’s like home away from home.”

"We Are The August Party": Politicians and Dandies at the Couture Council Summer Bash