News & Politics

A Night Out: Californians Celebrate Inaugural Fashion

Californians party at the Ritz-Carlton to kickoff the inauguration.

Project Runway winner Leanne Marshall's winning collection was part of the fashion show.

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.

All photographs by Chris Leaman

See more photos of inaugural balls.

Attire: What do you wear to a Sunday afternoon fashion show? Nobody seemed to have a definitive answer. Attire ran the gamut from business formal to glitzy cocktail garb. The only underdressed people were members of the media, some of whom showed up wearing jeans.

Food and drink: Mimosas and wine flowed at the 11 AM reception, and during lunch, servers offered pours of California red and white wines. The highlight of the three-course lunch was dessert—cake with fresh berries and sweet cream.

Scene: For many in attendance, the California luncheon kicked off three days of nearly nonstop inaugural partying; the excitement for the occasion was palpable. "It's finally here!" one guest proclaimed to everyone within earshot of the coat-check line. "Can you believe it?"

Nick Verreos and a team of colorful cancan dancers kept the excitement going on the runway. While the models changed for each segment of the show, which was entirely composed of designs by FIDM students and alumni, Verreos cracked jokes—"Was that appropriate for Washington, DC?" he wondered aloud afterward—and the dancers kicked and can-canned up and down the runway.

The show started in true Washington fashion with the national anthem and a color guard presentation. Models in Verreos's floor-length inaugural gowns trotted up and down the runway first, and then came Project Runway contestant Leanne Marshall's collection from the reality show. The designs were as fluid and pleated as they appeared on TV. The only disappointment: Marshall's wedding dress, which helped her clinch the win last season, was MIA.

Other collections on display included an interesting collaboration between FIDM's interior- and fashion-design students that resulted in furniture-inspired clothing (think geometric fabrics), and brightly painted Fender guitars that were part of a graphic-design project.

The only real miss of the show was the men's clothing. One collection included odd futuristic elements that reminded us of what might happen if you wore the inside of your computer. Another saw one model wearing knickers—he looked a lot like a character from the movie Newsies—and a second model clad in a red sweater vest that looked like a first attempt at knitting gone terribly wrong.

On the bright side, the clothes were hung on a team of sexy male models, and judging by the ear-piercing catcalls from the audience, no one seemed to notice the clothes anyway.  

Ratings (see our ratings explanation here):
Boldface names: 3 out of 5.
Swankiness: 3 out of 5.
Food and drink: 4 out of 5.
Overall exclusivity: 3 out of 5.

Total: 13 out of 20.

>> All inauguration coverage 

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