Fashion / Style File

Houston’s Most Beautiful Opera Ball Gowns — 42 Stunning Looks

The Women Who Wore It Best

BY // 04.17.19

Each year, the Houston Grand Opera Ball is a showcase for dramatic ball gowns and white-tie flair. With a joyous salute to Mexico, this year’s edition of the glam gala gave guests a theme they could explore in a fun and sartorially fashion-forward way. And many women, along with a few men, embraced the opportunity.

Bright red was the color of choice for many gala-goers, and lavish embroidered gowns were the order of the night, too. Many women wore floral headdresses or flowers in their hair.

Among the most creative gala-goers was Becca Cason Thrash, who chose an ensemble in the colors of the Mexican flag. “The marigold yellow skirt is Oscar de la Renta, the (forest green) shawl was my mother’s from the ’50s that she got in southern Mexico. And I’m very proud that the (red lace) top was on sale at Zara for $12.99,” Cason Thrash tells PaperCity.

Cynthia Petrello also tackled the theme with gusto. “I decided to channel Frida (Kahlo),” she says, referring to the floral headdress dotted with monarch butterflies that she was wearing.  “I’m wearing Dior and the Dior 2019 resort collection has been influenced by Mexican dressage. Ladies on beautiful white horses doing dressage in these white dresses.

“Houston Grand Opera debuted the first mariachi opera 10 years ago. It’s all a tribute to the Mexico culture and the Latino culture and how it has also been a huge influence and very important to the city of Houston and future of opera. I’m excited to be celebrating our culture from Houston, and Dior, and Frida, and Mexico!”

Whitney Crane chose her Oscar de la Renta gown with an embroidered skirt only a few days before the gala. Her sales associate at Saks Fifth Avenue had it shipped from New York and after alternations, Crane picked it up only two hours before the ball began.


  • De Beers
  • De Beers
  • De Beers
  • De Beers

“I just love that the embroidery has a Spanish/Mexican flair,” she says. “I showed my hairdresser what I was wearing and he decided to put my hair up. And we went to Central Market to get some flowers (to put in her hair). I really didn’t put a ton of planning into it, but it all worked out.”

Gala co-chair Marcia Vilas chose Houston designer David Peck to create a one-of-a-kind black and ruby fil coupé (a weave of cut threads) body suit and ball skirt with exaggerated sleeves, hand beaded Swarovski crystal and lapis belt.

“The dress is actually a bodysuit-at-ball skirt,” Peck explains “The fabric comes from Spain from the same textile mills that supply Dior, Valentino, Gucci, Chanel, etc. The weaving of the fabric and the beading on the belt were done in Europe.”

“I thought it was very important to support a local designer,” Vilas says. “Oddly enough, when I met with him in October, I said it’s a Latin theme, however I don’t want to look like I’m going to a Latin gala. Somehow this screams ‘I’m going to a Latin gala’ but it’s so eloquently done and he devoted so much time. It was such a privilege to work with him and wear one of his gorgeous gowns. He went above and beyond.”

Gown Power

Rini Ziegler selected a bright red Valentino lace gown for the occasion and wore fresh red flowers in her hair. “The theme is fiesta and it’s very, very festive and happy and beautiful. Red is the color of prosperity and happiness,” she says. “And flowers always make you happy.”

Hallie Vanderhider also embraced the theme in a floral tiered Marchesa gown. “I love the theme and this Marchesa looks very Spanish to me. And I can wear my Riposi necklace with it,” she says.

Hallie Vanderhider, Leigh Smith at the Houston Grand Opera Ball. (Photo by Jenny Antill)
Hallie Vanderhider, Leigh Smith at the Houston Grand Opera Ball. (Photo by Jenny Antill)

Vivian Wise rose to the occasion with a sheer black Oscar de la Renta gown with embroidered flowers. “It’s Oscar de la Renta from about 10 years ago. I put it on this morning and just prayed it would zip and it did, thank god. I’m from El Paso, so the whole theme for tonight is Ole! and it just seemed suited,” she says.

She accessorized the look with a Dolce & Gabbana belt, Cesar Galindo scarf, Charlotte Olympia purse, floral headband from San Miguel and earrings from Tulum.

Kendall Hanno chose a green off-the-shoulder Marchesa gown, with contrasting fresh red flowers in her hair. “You always think a theme like this is so fun, but you have to make it look good and not just like a piñata, “she says. “The fresh flowers were a step up and really fun and I thought the green (gown) would stand out.”

Gracie Cavnar chose a black skirt, pink blouse, and black lace top because  “it reminds me of a mantilla and hot pink is such a Mexican color. And I had to wear flowers in my hair because you just do,” she says.

Among the men, Cavnar’s husband Bob stood out in a tartan kilt reflecting his Scottish heritage while Christian Miranda looked debonair in a full-length Dolce & Gabbana velvet evening jacket.

Fady Armanious captured the theme in a matador-like Alexander McQueen tuxedo evening jacket. He saw it on the runway at the McQueen menswear show and figured there might be a gala with a Hispanic theme coming up at some point.

“A few months later I saw the opera invitation. And I said, ‘Oh my god, it’s meant to be.’ I love the sleeve and the red lining; it’s real subtle if you move a certain way,” he says.

To see these looks and many others from the Houston Grand Opera Ball, scroll through the photo set above or below this story.

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