"If you have it--wear it," was the directive from Joffrey Ballet Los Angeles premiere co-chair Patti Skouras.
"Go for wretched excess."
Less tauntingly, the official invitation to the $335 per person opening night gala called the event "very black tie," and asked: "What would you have worn to Maxim's the night they invented Champagne?"
Heeding their own baroque advice, Skouras and co-chair Felisa Vanoff both arrived at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in flouncy Oscar de la Renta gowns and pearls--"dressed to death," as Skouras said.
Safe Black Gowns
But gaudy just wasn't in the air for many celebrities and arts patrons who came to the Joffrey opening in safe black gowns and cocktail dresses, with only a few of the new short pouf dresses in sight.
Michelle Mazur was not among the safe. She said designer James Galanos attached a big white tutu-like ruffle to the bodice of a beaded gown and told her: " 'This is what you shall wear.'
"You can't really eat in this dress--but (it's) not important," said the Encino woman, a member of the Joffrey board.
Arts patron Joan Quinn also took the fashion dare, wearing a new chiffon Zandra Rhodes gown and matching fuchsia streaks in her hair.
"I mixed fuchsia (hair tint) because I knew I'd be wearing purple tonight," she explained. She lifted a wrist wrapped in four Cartier watches.
"I took them out of the bank for the night."
The theme for the post-ballet Champagne supper was Maxim's of Paris during the belle epoque of the early 20th Century. For actress Lea Thompson, that meant pulling from the closet a vintage wallpaper-floral chiffon dress ("I think this is a negligee, but I'm not sure"), which she bought in Minnesota a decade ago. She paired it with a wide belt that she said was a remnant from the filming of "Howard the Duck."
Xiliary Twil of Santa Monica put together a "Carmen Miranda image" for the night: a multihued lame strapless dress with large hoop earrings.
And Sandy Gibson of Los Angeles dressed up as "Texas meets Paris," pairing a black suit with multiple strands of turquoise at the neck--"the height of love beads."
In the quiet camp, actress Jaclyn Smith appeared in a beaded silk navy Fabrice cocktail dress, and Joffrey Ballet board member Patricia Kennedy wore a black velvet Emanuel Ungaro gown, chosen at the last minute because of the cool weather.
Beverly Sassoon also wore black Ungaro: "I think I'm one of the most understated ones around," she said as she stood a few yards from a dancing Barbi Benton, in a bare, skintight and slit, green sequined gown.