NEW YORK -- Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass are joining Pat Buckley as co-chairmen of this year's Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute gala.

De la Renta and Blass replace Blaine Trump, who is stepping down to spend more time working with God's Love We Deliver, the New York organization that delivers food to people with AIDS.

"I love the museum, but we have to open a new kitchen and I have to help raise $4 million and that's going to take a lot of time," Trump said Tuesday.

The news of de la Renta and Blass's involvement with the Metropolitan was greeted with dismay by some members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which sponsors its own fashion gala. "It'll be the case of the dueling fashion parties and who gets the chicer crowd," suggested one observer. "Oscar's going to really work hard to make the Met event the social event it once was."

De la Renta said he saw no conflict. "The Costume Institute is a wonderful institution that deserves everybody in the fashion business's support," he said. De la Renta said that Buckley had asked him to be her co-chair and he had suggested that they also ask Blass, which he did Tuesday morning. "We're doing it because Pat asked us," de la Renta said.

The gala is scheduled for early December, while the CFDA event is usually held in late January.

As the CFDA party gained in prestige over the last several years, the Met event sagged. But many attribute that not to the party itself, but to the fact that the museum has downplayed the importance of the Institute.

"Pat Buckley did an amazing job keeping the party alive," said one society figure. "But she had no support. They treat the Institute like a stepchild. Did you see the last exhibition? It was amateur night in Spokane. The Metropolitan Museum ought to think less about a party and more about putting on an exhibition that people will clamor to see."

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