After her fashion show for Children's Home Society received a standing ovation, Marie Gray--designer for Orange County-based St. John knits--breathed a sigh of relief.
"I'm glad that's over," she said. "You always wonder: 'Will it go well? Is the audience going to be accepting?' "
Gray, the nationally known designer who lives in Newport Beach and works in Irvine, might have known the natives would be friendly. Many guests had worn their own St. John designs to the Santa Ana auxiliary's annual show Friday at the Registry Hotel in Irvine.
Co-sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue and coordinated by Billur Wallerich, Saks' fashion director, the benefit drew 400 guests.
The collection of St. John daytime, sports and evening wear reflected a goal Gray had expressed earlier: "To present the classic, the timeless . . . a bit of elegance, a bit of style."
Gray looked classic herself, wearing gold St. John jewelry with her understated St. John dress and coat.
Her daughter, Kelly Gray, St. John's signature model, accepted accolades with her mother after the show but declined lunch. "I can't afford another meal before my shooting in New York tomorrow," she said.
Seated at Gray's table, guest Joyce Grabill wore one of her eight St. John's, a three-piece ensemble in royal blue and white. "I'm a St. John-aholic," she confessed.
Santa Ana auxiliary president Boise Taylor wore a taupe and white year-round St. John suit with wrap closing and button accent at the shoulder. Event chairwoman Lana Hileman glittered in an electric blue two-piece St. John. "When I saw it, I said, 'Please, let it fit!' " she said.
Rhinestones outlined the shoulders and sleeves of Glenda Deis' white St. John, selected by her husband one day while she was working at his office. And hand-crocheted satin piping edged the jacket and skirt of Julie MacFarlane's beige St. John suit.
Boise Taylor noted that 10,000 children were served last year in California through the private, nonprofit society, founded in 1891. Services in Orange County include adoption, expectant parent counseling, child care, foster care, public education and child advocacy.
Lana Hileman estimated that the event netted about $10,000. Guests paid $45 each to attend.