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Society / Featured Parties

Houston’s Best Dressed Women Get Upstaged by a High Style Gent

This Catwalk Sizzled

BY // 03.24.17
photography Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com

Luncheon headliners were supposed to have been the 10 Best Dressed honorees and while they did make a splash in the ballroom of the Marriott Marquis, it was the peripatetic Ken Downing, Neiman Marcus’ senior veep and fashion director, who most will remember long after the designer frocks are forgotten.

Reed thin, wearing the world’s tightest blue suit, his boyish hair flopping across his forehead, Downing took up the auction gavel to ultimately raise $20,000 for the March of Dimes. (Top bidders on the fashion trip to Milan — Susan Plank and Laura Greenberg.) But before launching into his surprisingly professional auctioneer’s spiel, Downing shared a nugget of fashion wisdom, “The best accessory is your own personal style and confidence.”

That principle was evident in the day’s honorees, who each displayed a decidedly individual approach to fashion as they strode the catwalk in selections that included genteel ladylike day dresses, cocktail attire, pants ensembles and one stunning long gown.

A certain amount of self-confidence would be called for to step into the fashion forward designs of Brunello Cucinelli that Neiman Marcus presented on the catwalk. As Downing explained, the fall look embraces the eye-popping casual without being sloppy. The avant-garde looks were perfect for the soundtrack (think Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling) that had most of the 500 ladies and sprinkling of gents dancing in their seats. Lookin’ at you Melissa Mithoff, Debbie Festari, Elizabeth Petersen et al.

In presenting the honorees, Houston Chronicle chairman Jack Sweeney and fashion editor Joy Sewing not only talked about the potent combination of philanthropy and style but also revealed a few colorful tidbits about the honorees. Beyond the ABC 13 news desk, Gina Gaston, for example, is not only a Best Dressed Hall of Famer but also an Instagram sensation thanks to the yoga poses she posts from each of her worldwide travels. Two of our favorite revelations: Best Dressed newcomers, Jessica Rossman, an attorney with United Airlines, has declared that the latest thing in power dressing is a pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos while Carolyn Dorros reveals that British Prime Minister Theresa May is her style icon, think political power. And we love the fact that in an effort to stay fit, first-time honoree  CleRenda MGrady boxes three times a week.

Hall of Fame honorees included Jana Arnoldy, Lisa Holthouse and Carol Linn, wearing a Naeem Khan made especially for her. Rounding out the ladies who walked the walk in high style were Sneha Merchant, Mary D’Andrea, and Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl.

Embracing philanthropy and fashion: March of Dimes national president Stacey Stewart, luncheon chairs Kristy Bradshaw and Isabel David, raffle chairs Ting Bresnahan and Sippi Khurana, assistant auctioneer ABC 13’s Miya Shay, University of Houston system president Renu Khator, Sheridan Williams, Merele Yarbrough, Melinda Berkman, Phyllis Williams, Rosemary Schatzman, Tina and Sam Governale, Julie Roberts, Gracie and Bob Cavnar, and Gordon Bethune. 

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