Style Archive: Truman Capote's Black & White Ball
What if you gave a party and everybody came? That's what happened one legendary night in 1966 at the Plaza Hotel when 540 of Truman Capote's most stlyish friends turned out for a "little masked ball." Standing as one of the greatest parties of all time, the fete was thrown in honor of, Katharine Graham, whose family owned Newsweek and The Washington Post. The Black & White Ball as it has become known was themed after Cecil Beaton's iconic Ascot scene in My Fair Lady, as guests were asked to dress in black and white.
Among those who were exclusively invited were the author’s “swans”; Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, Andy Warhol, Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Lee Radziwill, Marella Agneli and Penelope Tree, who, in a revealing design from Paraphernalia, was discovered by Vogue that night. Oscar de la Renta and Françoise de Langlade were hits in their complementary marabou kitten masks; Candice Bergen sported Halston’s bunny ears; and Princess Luciana Pignatelli borrowed a 60-carat diamond from Harry Winston and suspended it on her forehead instead of obscuring her face.
The ball also found an unlikely chronicler in Gloria Steinem, an invited guest who had made Capote’s acquaintance after she interviewed hime for Glamour the year before. Steinem wrote a feature on the party for Vogue in January 1967 in which she described the luminaries, feathers, masks, ball gowns, and jewels all whirling around the room: “The effect was like some blend of Hollywood, the Court of Louis XIV, a medieval durbar, and pure Manhattan.”
Descriptions of unlikely collisions between worlds are one of the highlights of Steinem’s piece: the detective hired to guard the ladies’ jewelry asking Lee Radziwill to dance; Lynda Bird Johnson’s Secret Service men looking unmistakably Secret Service-y despite their black tie attire and requisite masks; and Beverly and Norman Mailer creating a dance move that involved balancing on an invisible tightrope.
Inspired by this illustrious event, designer Stine Goya delves into the world of the Black & White Ball with a collection of luxurious printed silks, occasion-ready dresses and crisply tailored blouse. Owing a debt to that night with looks for all occasions and individuals, the collection evokes a timeless and unabashed sense of glamour.
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