Byline: Aileen Mehle

Perhaps you’ve heard that Princess Diana has been in town? And that the Council of Fashion Designers got her for its big fandango at Lincoln Center? And that ticket sales to the biggest fashion event of the year soared? And that excitement reigned all over the New York State Theater, because lookie, lookie, lookie, here come’s cookie Di with a new hairdo, buffed as an athlete (she works out every day) and oozing charm from every pretty pore. Gracious Di.
To recap ever so slightly, Di was invited to present a CFDA special award to her friend Liz Tilberis, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, and when the folks who live at Buckingham Palace were advised that Di would be the personal guest of Veronica and Randolph Hearst of the media empire Hearsts they said that was fine with them. Does the Palace still keep a beady eye on Di? Let’s just say she’s the mother of the future king of England — if the monarchy lasts that long. Does that answer the question?
About Di’s new slicked back, jelled hairdo, complete with ducktail — let’s say the jury is still out on that one. Some thought it adorable, sort of Eton-chic. Others were not so sure, that maybe she looked too much like a Shropshire Lad. The London papers hated it. Messy, they called it, and criticized the Princess for promoting American fashion when no one promotes British fashion. How can they say that? She wore only British-designed clothes while she was here, including the spare, bare, understated, Catherine Walker navy blue crepe dress she wore with her pearl and sapphire choker to the CFDA gala. And the pink jacket and black skirt she wore to the Hearst luncheon was certainly not made in America by the ILGWU.
To return to the hairdo, my thought is the beautiful Princess should jettison it. When Claudia Schiffer, bosom at the ready, in full makeup and with yards of white-gold hair cascading down her back, was presented to Di, it was rather like boy meets girl. Of course, you can say that about Claudia Schiffer and almost anybody.
Naturally, the gorgeous models, Amber Valleta, Vendela, Kate Moss (who was at Di’s table), Bridget Hall, Shalom, Tyra Banks, Stephanie Seymour and la Schiffer, loomed over the crowd mainly because they’re loomingly taller than most men, skinnier than most women and more beautiful than film stars. Still, Sigourney Weaver, looking wonderful in a silver-gray Richard Tyler, held her own with any of them. There were a few white dresses and pantsuits in the theater and every now and then a flash of red, but otherwise, New York being New York, the crowd was a sea of black. Women in this city are afraid to wear color. And no dictum from Paris or Seventh Avenue will ever change them. In August in the Sahara they would be sweating it out in black. (Some people believe that is why Judy Taubman called for tropical dress at her Palm Beach party later this week for her husband Alfred’s birthday. Otherwise, she might run the risk of the majority floating in in little black dresses, lined up, as you have read here before, like crows on a telegraph wire.)
This year’s CFDA gala was the most polished and professional since its inception, the dinner by Glorious Food, the show beautifully produced and directed. Someone from the Academy Awards should have been there taking notes. They have dropped those flashing, distracting, old-hat, instant-on, instant-off film shots and in their place used marvelous, clever, funny videos which give a clear picture of what the award winners do to win those awards. The speeches were mercifully short. Karl Lagerfeld, who flew over from Paris for the night, was a special crowd-pleaser complete with Teutonic wit, ever-present fan and signature pony-tail tied with a black velvet ribbon to keep what he calls an unruly mess neat and tidy. Many found make-up genius Kevyn Aucoin’s touching tale of rise from obscurity in Louisiana to fame in New York poignant. A pregnant Roseanne, who was supposed to hand Aucoin his award, has been ordered to her bed but was shown in that bed on video, all fluffed up and made up to the nines by Aucoin. Roseanne explained to us that her “German counterpart,” the glorious model Nadja Auermann, was taking her place. “Take it away, Nadj,” she squealed. Whereupon, an exhausted Aucoin, in bed with Roseanne, was shown giving her face a final pat with a puff and fainting dead away. I’ll bet. And, no, you didn’t have to be there.
Diane Sawyer presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to Carrie Donovan, Bernadine Morris and Nonnie Moore. Victor Alfaro of the Chihuahua Alfaros received his prize, the Perry Ellis Award for New Fashion Talent, from the hands of Mariah Carey. Also receiving the Perry Ellis Award was Cynthia Rowley, presented by Fran Drescher of TV’s “The Nanny,” and Robert Massimo Freda, presented by Dawn Mello. And let’s not forget presenter Grace Mirabella, the beautiful video tribute to Jackie Kennedy Onassis for a Lifestyle of Style and Influence on American Fashion, and the special prize for that phenomenon called The Wonderbra, which was much in evidence judging from various poitrines.
Kelly and Calvin Klein were there (Calvin sat next to the Princess at dinner) and Ricky and Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass and Anna Wintour and Lisa Trafficante and Richard Tyler (the Women’s Wear Designer of the Year) and Arnold Scaasi and Rita and Ian Schrager and Tina Brown and Joy Henderiks and John Richardson and Chris and Pat Riley and Donna Giuliani and Gilles Dufour and Jane and Peter Marino and Isaac Mizrahi (also at the Princess’s table) and Elsa Klensch and Gale Hayman and Mario Buatta and John Galliano in dreadlocks and black and white saddle shoes and an indescribable lot going on in-between and Romeo Gigli and Rose Marie Bravo and hundreds of others too chic and stunning to mention.
Congratulations to Stan Herman and Fern Mallis, who ran the show, and the best of British (and American) luck to Princess Diana, who, despite the strong rumor that she was devastated when she learned Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Prince of Wales’s mistress, was divorcing her husband, Major Andrew Parker-Bowles, seemed as blithe as a butterfly as she greeted her host of admirers at a private reception before the big show.
Stories also abound that it’s in the works — the Church of England and all that — for Diana and Prince Charles’s older son, Prince William, to take over the throne should daddy decide to marry Camilla and toss in the towel. Would that then make Diana the Regent? As someone said of the film “The Madness of King George,” nothing has changed — except the costumes.