Topping it all off

After a long winter, NJPAC’s Spring Luncheon blooms with festive finery.


Want to make sure that people turn out for an event in especially spring-like finery?


Here’s one way: Arrange for winter to hang on well past its welcome.


“I felt like I was wearing black for 10 months!” exclaimed Christine Pearson, a member of the Women’s Association of NJPAC Board.


So Pearson made up for that long season of dreariness by wearing a baby-blue pantsuit – covered in a pink-and-purple floral vine print, and paired with a hot pink top – at the WA’s annual Spring Luncheon and Auction last month.


A fundraiser for NJPAC and its Arts Education programs, the Luncheon is known for its covetable silent auction prizes (Public bikes or Seinfeld tickets, anyone?),  its healthy treats served on the stage of the Arts Center’s Prudential Hall — and for a crowd that celebrates the chance to dress up to the nines.


Warm sunny weather helped that impulse along this year.


“Yellow is my power color, it’s always in my wardrobe — and today is such a perfect spring day for a tea-type event,” said Alexandra Bernard-Simmons, founder of the women’s empowerment organization Think Like A Boss.


So she paired her black-and-white dress with a yellow net fascinator – and bright yellow heels adorned with three-dimensional butterflies that “remind me of spring!” she said.


Florals and fancy footwear were a recurring theme of the outfits paraded through the Luncheon’s cocktail hour in the Prudential Lobby, as pastel drinks were passed and plenty of Instagram-worthy selfies were taken.


But, as at Ascot and the Kentucky Derby, the hats are the event’s crowning glory.


“I came last year and I saw all the women in beautiful hats, so I knew I had to get something like that to wear,” said Gloria Walker, who paired a floral dress with a fascinator topped in puffs  of magenta netting that perched on the side of her head like an early peony.


“This is my grandmother’s, from the ‘20s,” said Lori Roper, a writer in residence at Newark’s Gallery Aferro, adjusting her bright yellow pillbox-style hat. “It’s antique haberdashery.”


“I love hats, I’m a hat girl,” said Deborah E. Collins, of RWJBarnabas Health, who paired a wide-brimmed white hat, topped with swirls of netting, with a white suit and triple-decker pearls.


“This morning I said: ‘Well, I could do floral, but I felt more monochromatic today.’ And of course a lady in a hat needs pearls!”


After the networking reception and auction, Luncheon attendees heard from NJPAC’s hip hop students, and were treated to a talk on fueling a sense of purpose in work and in one’s home life, by author and Essence magazine editor Mikki Taylor and CBS News national correspondent Michelle Miller.


By day’s end, not only had everyone been inspired and had a chance to revel in their spring wardrobes, but more than $230,000 had been raised for arts education and NJPAC operations — a new record for this annual event.


June 25, 2018