Fashion / Style

Houston’s Bold & Beautiful — 35 Special Women and the Ball Gowns That Stole the Show at the Grand Opera Ball

What They're Wearing

BY // 04.20.23
photography Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

As one of the city’s most formal galas, the Houston Grand Opera Ball traditionally showcases dramatic ballgowns. But this year’s theme, “A City of Bold Voices,” gave attendees even more of an opportunity to push the fashion envelope. Eye-popping colors, bright florals and contrasting accessories stood out, while some young opera patrons chose cutting-edge designers and entrance-making gowns.

While the Opera Ball invitation made white tie “optional” for the first time, many of the men attending this year’s gala eschewed tuxedos for more formal attire, continuing the tradition of white tie and tails. The women kept up on the formal front, too, with an array of spectacular gowns that seized the fashion moment.

Kelsey Stewart sparkled in a pink princess gown with a billowing taffeta skirt and long train that she found at a vintage store in New York (it didn’t have a label). She  accessorized it with a large tiara and diamond jewelry. When asked if she was worried that guests would step on the long train, she explains, “I bought a change of clothes. You always need a costume change.”

And sure enough, late in the evening, Stewart had changed into a black cocktail dress that made dancing much easier. Perhaps she’ll start a two-outfit tradition at top Houston galas.

KT_03422 Kelsey and Chip Stewart
Chip & Kelsey Stewart at the Houston Grand Opera Ball (Photo by Katy Anderson)

Kaleta Blaffer Johnson picked a sexy, modern chartreuse gown with cutouts at the bodice from Bach Mai. The 34-year-old designer, who was born and raised in Houston, has been making a big splash in New York since launching his initial collection last year.

Houston Grand Opera Ball 2023 (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)
Kaleta Blaffer Johnson in Houston designer Bach Mai at the Houston Grand Opera Ball (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)

Houston Grand Opera general director and CEO Khori Dastoor chose a burgundy gown by Bibhu Mohapatra with a criss-cross bodice and flowing pleated train. Her gold above-the-elbow opera gloves contrasted with the dark gown and really made the ensemble pop.

Houston Grand Opera Ball 2023 (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)
Khori Dastoor wearing Bibhu Mohapatra at the Houston Grand Opera Ball (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)

The always fashion-forward Duyen Nguyen paired a black Tom Ford top featuring an abundance of crystal embroidery with a sheer black Saint Laurent skirt. “I like to mix and match designers,” she says.

Houston Grand Opera Ball 2023 (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)
Duyen Nguyen in a Tom Ford top and Saint Laurent skirt at the Houston Grand Opera Ball (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)

Cynthia Petrello selected a Dior gown in an ethereal pink shade while Lynn Wyatt chose a gold Valentino brocade gown that she said came from her closet. Like the actress Cate Blanchett, Wyatt is a master of re-wearing red carpet looks and making them seem fresh and new.

Houston Grand Opera Ball 2023 (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)
Lynn Wyatt in Valentino at the Houston Grand Opera Ball (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)

Nicole Lassiter picked a sparkly black and silver Dolce & Gabbana gown with a big sequined heart at the bodice. “I chose it because the theme was Bold Voices and my gown has writing in beads on the bottom. I just thought it fit the theme,” she says.

Houston Grand Opera Ball 2023 (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)
Nicole Lassiter in Dolce & Gabbana at the Houston Grand Opera Ball (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)

Lifestyle blogger Beth Muecke appeared in a gown of several shades of blue, with matching opera gloves. “As you know, the Opera Ball theme was Bold, so I decided to go Bold in Blue, “she says. “Also my dear friend Nicole Lassiter had ordered it and it was way too big on her, so I happily got custody of it.”

Houston Grand Opera Ball 2023 (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)
Beth Muecke at the Houston Grand Opera Ball. (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)

Cindi Rose selected a vintage rose-patterned Bob Mackie gown from her closet, accentuated with a David Webb necklace. “I bought the gown about 10 years ago and am glad I am back to my size 4,” she exclaimed. “The theme was bold opera. That’s why I choose red, the color of passion, love, blood, anger, emotion, roses, sex. I can’t think of a color bolder than red and neither did the HGO with its array of red roses. And it’s my last name.”

Houston Grand Opera Ball 2023 (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)
Cindi Rose in Bob Mackie at the Houston Grand Opera Ball (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)

Sawkia Patterson turned to Etsy for her special multi-colored gown by PrudyFashionAfrique, a designer in Nigeria. “I choose the dress and designer because I wanted to embody the theme of the Opera Ball Bold Voices. As a Black woman I always like to pay homage to my culture and those who have come before me, and I feel like nothing is more bold then African fabrics and designs,” Patterson says.

Houston Grand Opera Ball 2023 (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)
Sawkia Patterson at the Houston Grand Opera Ball (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)

Connie Kwan Wong designed her frothy green gown just for the special occasion. “Emerald symbolizes love, hope, luck and new beginning. Also, emerald is my favorite gem stone. This mesmerizing color catches my eyes and puts me under its spell,” she says.

Houston Grand Opera Ball 2023 (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)
Connie Kwan-Wong in a self-designed gown at the Houston Grand Opera Ball (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)

Also choosing bold colors were Gracie Cavnar in a striking purple Angel Sanchez gown, Betty Tutor in a bright emerald Carolina Herrera gown, Zane Carruth in a stoplight red Reem Acra gown, Rachel Ellsworth in a one-shoulder yellow toga gown by  Stella McCartney and vintage earrings from Tenenbaum Jewelers, and Cheryl Haseeb in a deep pink rose Jonathan Kayne gown with a sequined neckline.

“As someone who takes fashion seriously, I am always on the lookout for designers who create unique, elegant, and high-quality pieces that make a statement,” Haseeb said. “I believe that fashion should make a statement, and with Jonathan Kayne’s designs, I am able to do just that.”

Houston Grand Opera Ball 2023 (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)
Dr. Cheryl Haseeb wearing Jonathan Kayne at the Houston Grand Opera Ball (Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group)

For these and other fashion statements from the Houston Grand Opera Ball, scroll through the photo gallery at the top of this story to see 35 gowns to swoon over.

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