VERSAILLES — After seven years and $4 million in fund-raising, Chicago philanthropist Catharine Hamilton, who led the charge to restore Trois Fontaines Bosquet, blew a whistle on Saturday night and watched as the waters once again flowed through Versailles’ legendary fountain. But while the triple-tiered masterpiece created by Louis XIV’s famous garden designer André Le Nôtre was glorious, he clearly didn’t anticipate the invention of the stiletto. So the male contingent among the American Friends of Versailles, there to herald the fountain’s restoration, had plenty of chances to demonstrate their gallantry, escorting the high-heeled set — including Anne-Marie de Ganay, Barbara de Portago, Princess Michael of Kent and Susan Gutfreund — over a steep cobblestone incline between fountains two and three.
“Somebody is going to fall and break a leg,” fretted Hamilton.
This story first appeared in the June 15, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Meanwhile, the youngest visitors flitted about the gardens and through the Orangerie without a care in the world. With her punkish hair, gorgeous Christian Lacroix gown and a tiny “H” tattoo on her forearm, Hamilton’s daughter, Tennessee, all but stole the evening.
“I love Lacroix,” cooed the fashion design major at Pratt, who confessed to some major career ambitions. “I want to do it all — couture, everything.”
For the event, Tennessee and her sister, Elizabeth, chose new Lacroix gowns, while plenty of their peers went for stunning vintage. Consider their New York cousin, C.C. Marsh, who plucked her purple number, an Oscar de la Renta circa 1981, from her mother’s closet.
“Shopping at home,” she quipped.
Alexandra Gizela wore a pink tulle dress she found in New York’s East Village, while her friend Danielle Lissance chose a racy vintage Adele Simpson number. Erin Till turned up in a Twenties-era gown, and Claire Hudson borrowed a Gres — and some major jewels — from her grandmother, Ira von Furstenberg.
“She insisted that I wear the jewelry she would have worn with it,” said the 21-year-old, who recently moved to Paris’s sixth arrondissement. “But I know it’s all a little ridiculous on someone my age.”
Or was it? Plenty of other young hipsters felt right in tune among the over-the-top splendor of Versailles, including Cameron Buffett, the son of Jimmy Buffett, who belted out a medley of hits after dinner. Surveying the lawns as the dressed-to-the-nines guest were shuttled to and from the chateau in tourist trains, the younger Buffett declared: “If I had my birthday party here, that would be awesome!”
The next day at the Chateau d’Anet, outside Paris, guests lined up to have their pictures taken with Princess Michael of Kent.
“I feel like Mickey Mouse,” she said. “I’ll pose with anyone.” Later at dinner, Kent told tales of the love affair between the 18-year-old Prince Henry II and the 38-year-old Diane de Poitiers, for whom the castle was originally built.
“I ask you, such a young man…what would you do?” she said, looking apologetically at her husband, Prince Michael of Kent. “Sorry, darling.”
Given recent scandal, Kent sidestepped any talk of New York and funneled conversation toward “The Serpent and the Moon,” her biography of De Poitiers that is slated to hit store shelves this September. The event was part of a series organized by the American Friends of Versailles.
“It looks like a shoe box, compared to Versailles,” Chateau d’Anet’s current owner, Jean de Yturbe, said. “But frankly, it’s quite pretty — and it’s all mine.”
— Jessica Kerwin, with contributions from Miles Socha