No matter who you are, inaugural galas mean dressing to the nines—but a cursory glance around the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball Tuesday night showed that military women play by different rules of engagement. Here’s a look at what “dress to impress” means to our nation’s troops and how servicewomen add a dose of femininity and style to their ensembles, along with a few words from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
What: The Commander-in-Chief’s Ball, hosted by President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden.
Where: The National Building Museum.
When: Tuesday, January 20, 2009.
Tickets: Guest list only. Tickets were provided free of charge to 2,000 invited guests.
Who: Active-duty and reserve military and their families, 300 wounded warriors from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, families of fallen soldiers, spouses of deployed military. Translation: A sea of navy, white, and black-clad attendees, punctuated by tuxes and jewel-toned ball gowns.
What: Bytes & Books Inaugural Ball.
Where: Folger Shakespeare Library.
When: Tuesday, January 20, 6:30 PM.
Who: Bytes & Books brought out 450 teachers and tech geeks, spruced up for the occasion in dapper tuxedos and glitzy floor-length gowns. The most noteworthy person in the over-40 crowd was movie director George Lucas, there to accept an award for his work on education technology. Senator Edward Kennedy was slated to be there for the same reason, but after having a seizure at Obama’s Capitol luncheon earlier in the day, he was unable to attend. A staffer accepted the award on his behalf.
Food and drink: The event featured five well-stocked open bars with no waiting time. (We love events with responsible adults not out to get hammered!) The drinks du jour seemed to be white wine, Champagne, and big glasses of water—the temperature in some of the rooms was close to unbearable, leaving nearly everyone parched. Food included passed hors d’oeuvres such as gooey balls of fried goat cheese and skewered shrimp wrapped in smoky prosciutto as well as a buffet with roast beef, ramekins of orzo mac and cheese, and warm, cinnamon-doused pears.
What: Pennsylvania Inaugural Gala, hosted by the Pennsylvania Society of Washington, DC.
Where: Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C.
When: Tuesday, January 20.
Ticket price: $150.
Who: Seventeen hundred Pennsylvanians—plus Obama supporters from Atlanta, London, Washington, and other places—came out to toast the new President and the Keystone State’s role in the historic election. Notable guests included longtime Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and wife Marjorie, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, and actress Sharon Stone. Fox 5 weatherman Tony Perkins was master of ceremonies.
What: The Illinois Inaugural Gala, hosted by the Illinois State Society.
Where: Renaissance Hotel.
When: Monday, January 19.
Ticket price: $500 for the dinner and ball, $300 for the Gala Ball only. Tickets sold out by November 29, 2008 after going on sale to the public in September.
Who: Prominent Illinoisans, politicians, corporate sponsors, and anyone who figured that the new President's home state would pull out all the stops to usher in its favorite son as Commander-in-Chief. Government officials dominated the crowd of nearly 7,000, with honorees including the state's 20 members of the 111th Congress. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr attended the dinner with wife, Sandi, and told Washingtonian, "This is the party of the century! No, it's the party of four centuries!" Roland Burris, the newly appointed successor to Obama's vacant Senate seat, sat at the table next to Jackson's and told us that he was very much enjoying himself as he shook hands and posed for photos with guests. Also spotted: actor Bill Murray on the dance floor in a pale pastel madras bow tie; former NBA star Cliff Robinson sporting a top hat on his 6'9" frame; and actor Keith David, who starred in a film about a barbershop in Chicago's south side. Government types included Senator Dick Durbin; Congressman Aaron Shock, State Senator and former colleague of Obama's, Kirk Dillard.
Rumored to be in attendance: Retired Chicago Cub Ernie Banks, comedian and former Daily Show pundit Mo Rocca, and musician George Clinton, minus the Funkadelics.
What: Creative Coalition Inaugural Ball.
Where: Harman Center for the Arts.
When: Tuesday, January 20, 8 PM.
Ticket price: Despite being one of the priciest inaugural balls, the event sold out. Four packages were offered, the most expensive at $100,000, which included 50 VIP admissions and 20 admissions to the preball VIP dinner. The least expensive package was $10,000 for two standard admissions.
Who: This was a hot ticket for celebrities, many of whom are supporters of the Creative Coalition, a nonprofit social- and political-advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. Big names included actors Anne Hathaway, Susan Sarandon, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, and Rachel Leigh Cook. Elvis Costello headlined a concert, and he was followed by performances by Sam Moore and Sting. Also at the ball were movie director Ron Howard and actors Alan Cumming, Heather Graham, Forest Whitaker, Magic Johnson, Isaiah Washington, Josh Lucas, Maura Tierney, Gloria Reuben, and Tim Daly. On the red carpet (or rather, the Pepsi blue carpet), entertainment journalist Maria Menounos interviewed celebs as they made their way inside.
At last night’s Inaugural Purple Ball, we snapped photos of celebrities and gussied-up attendees during an hour-long cocktail reception. Held in the ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel, the event focused on diversity and bipartisanship (think blue and red make purple), and a portion of its proceeds went to the United Negro College Fund. Post cocktail hour, guests were treated to a seated dinner, speeches by Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF, Senator Leticia Van de Putte, host Asal Masomi, and Deidre Hall. Boy band Il Divo performed before the Radio King Orchestra provided music for guests to dance the night away. Attendees spent between $300 and $5,000 to participate.
Here’s some highlights from the cocktail reception:
Most dramatic gown: Host Asal Masomi and her personal assistant. They both wore princess-style dresses with a fitted, sequined corset on top and layers upon layers of tuile poofing out on the bottom.
Best male formal attire: Partygoer Alexander Duncan sported the top of a tuxedo with a Scottish kilt and his ancestor’s tartan on bottom. He says he wears it to every black-tie event he attends.
What: The Presidential Inaugural Luncheon and Fashion Show, hosted by the California State Society of Washington, DC, and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM).
Where: Ritz-Carlton, Washington, DC.
When: Sunday, January 18.
Ticket price: $200.
Who: Hundreds of Californians-turned-Washingtonians—plus a few guests from Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and other places—turned out to kick-off President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration with a Sunday afternoon fashion show. Notable guests included California senator and congressional inaugural committee chair Dianne Feinstein, FIDM director Norine Fuller, NBC4 sportscaster Lindsay Czarniak, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and California congressman Jim Costa. Project Runway contestant Nick Verreos—clad in a charcoal Marc Jacobs suit smartly paired with a pink tie—was the master of ceremonies.
What: The Children's Inaugural Ball hosted by Every Child Matters Education Fund and 40 other local and national children's groups. The afternoon, open-house-style event was kid-friendly in every way, from the casual attire to the story-time stage to the popcorn and cotton-candy carts.
Where: Historical Society of Washington in DC's Mount Vernon Square.
When: January 18, 2009, noon to 5 PM.
Ticket price: Free. The 2,000 tickets (one per family) to this informal but very popular event went fast. Weeks ago, the RSVP list was full, and parents who were hoping their children could take part in the only free, family-friendly inaugural ball were directed to a long waiting list.
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Here’s what we know: The soon-to-be first family wants either a Labradoodle or a Portuguese water dog, and they’d like to get their dog from an animal rescue or a shelter. Well, Obama family, the Prince George’s County SPCA can help you out.
If you go with a Labradoodle—and, as we previously reported, your neighbor is lobbying hard for the breed—Tamela Terry, president of the PGSPCA, might have the dog of your dreams. She e-mailed us yesterday with photos and a description of an adorable seven-month-old Labradoodle named Sydney currently up for adoption.
“Sydney . . . is just great with everyone: kids, other dogs, cats, you name it. She is house-trained already, and she knows how to use a dog door! She’s crate trained, leash trained, and knows her basic commands.”
Sounds perfect, no? Sydney is ready for adoption now, Mr. Obama, so contact Terry as soon as possible if you’re interested in meeting her.
Terry says: “This beautiful girl could be the best thing to happen to the Obamas all year!” Well, besides Barack becoming President, that is.