Ken Downing and Zac Posen at the Crystal Ball Charity Fashion Show and Luncheon.


DALLAS — Neiman Marcus, Zac Posen and jeweler Margot McKinney took the Crystal Charity Ball Fashion Show and Luncheon to a whole new level.

Seventy-two evening ensembles, some so lavish they rustled the toes of spectators, swept by one after another, each garnished with jewels from a $40 million array that McKinney had escorted from Australia.

“It’s fabulous on top of fabulous,” said Neiman’s senior vice president and fashion director Ken Downing.

The 43rd annual ball was a fitting conclusion to a week that marked the retailer’s 110th anniversary.

“When you celebrate a birthday that ends in a ‘0,’ you have to pull out the stops,” said Neiman’s chairman and chief executive officer Karen Katz.

“This lineup has never been presented to anyone,” Downing pointed out. “At first the music was going to be esoteric and now it’s all a dance remix with a DJ because we want the women to really enjoy this moment.”

Even former First Lady Laura Bush occasionally bopped her head to the beat.

“I think this is the prettiest one they’ve ever had,” remarked Patsy Donosky, who has attended every Crystal Charity Ball luncheon since the Sixties.

“The show was spectacular,” echoed Dallas Cowboys executive and heiress Charlotte Jones Anderson. Dressed in a slim black Posen gown, Anderson had just been named to the charity’s Best Dressed Hall of Fame.

Among the baubles on show was a $3.8 million necklace of 26 matched white gum ball pearls that McKinney asserted was the rarest strand in the world. “It took 10 years to put together, and we went through hundreds of thousands of pearls,” she explained. “I will probably never again in my lifetime see this collection of pearls.”

The charity celebrated 10 philanthropists as best dressed, and, as is customary, each walked the runway in a different look by the featured designer: Anita Arnold, Delilah Boyd, Katherine Coker, Janie Condon, Lisa Cooley, Tucker Enthoven, Pat Harloe, Julie Howes, Amy Hegi and Piper Wyatt.

A number of Posen’s designs are also likely to be spotted at the charity’s annual ball in December. Run by 100 prominent women with the support of hundreds of retired members, the group plans to disperse $5.8 million this year to local children’s causes.

“This is a huge honor,” affirmed Posen, the youngest designer ever featured at the prestigious fundraiser. “This is like the pinnacle of fashion at Neiman’s. I love the setup. It’s stunning.”

Outside, 12 Zac Posen gowns worn on red carpets by the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Clare Danes and Reese Witherspoon appeared in the Neiman’s windows. After lunch, many stopped by the pop-up Zac Posen boutique, which had taken over the bridal salon, to see the pre-fall, fall, resort and spring looks featured in the show.

“It’s interesting, with all this discussion over the last few years of buy-now-wear-now, I think it’s an ideal way to present a collection where you don’t give everything at once,” Posen reflected. “This city, the women and the gentlemen and Neiman’s, have been incredibly loyal — my champions through good times and weird times,” he said. “Dallas ladies love fashion. They love to dress, and it’s like nowhere else in the world. The closest I’ve seen in my travels over the years maybe is in Singapore and Shanghai.”

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