Who hasn't mused on what it might be like to step for a moment into that renowned, rareified world of Ralph Lauren's creation, the one depicted in those glorious Bruce Weber photographs? Nearly 500 people got the chance on Saturday night when Lauren invited them to the Conservatory Garden, a jewel of a spot way up on 105th and Fifth Avenue in Central Park — a world away from typical fashion crowd scenes.

Arriving guests walked past a pair of urns spilling over with vibrant pink hydrangeas that flanked the Vanderbilt Gate, the ironwork masterpiece that in its previous life kept the railroad magnate sequestered safely from hoi polloi curiosity while in his 58th Street manse. At Lauren's fete, no drama getting through, each guest treated like a movie star, a sip of Champagne and then into a grand white tent appointed simply in sleek black and white (albeit with a colorfully horsey Edwardian runway backdrop), where the people-watching was as delightful as the A.C. (Hey, everybody, take a lesson. This isn't Europe.) The front row shone with star wattage, but not of the typical I'll-show-for-a-free-dress actress ilk. Rather, Lauren's A-list weighed heavily toward New Yorkers important in various fields, starting with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his girlfriend Diana Taylor, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Charlie Rose, Martha Stewart, Dustin Hoffman and his wife, Lisa, Stephen Schwarzman, Robert De Niro, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, not to mention the ultrasupportive competition — Donna Karan, Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang and Diane von Furstenberg.

In response to the invitation's request for black tie, many women turned up, not surprisingly, in black. But there was also a big showing of white with a shot of silver here or there in the crowd, which played uncannily to one of the evening's leitmotifs — the Ascot scene from "My Fair Lady," the soundtrack of which played in the background. And why not? That Anglo gentility has always featured prominently in Lauren's work, and he and Eliza Doolittle herself, Audrey Hepburn, became friends back when he designed her clothes for a PBS series on gardens. (The show-opening song, however — "Boring" by The Pierces — was atypical Ralph, with lyrics that delighted the audience: "Galliano, Donatella, Dolce & Gabbana — boring.")

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