The Little Black Dress
50th annual Gold Coast Fashion Award Show
By Amanda Thayer

I ascend a broad curved stair case. On each landing there is a dress form, each swathed in designer little black dress. Oleg Cassini, Bill Blass, Maria Pinto, Heidi name a few of the prestigious designers.

I reach the top landing and enter into a sea of decadently dressed men and woman, dipped in stones and diamonds, and sipping champagne. I circle the room, just as decadent as the people within, with vaulted ceilings drenched in gold trim and chandeliers.  Suddenly heads turn to gaze upward as a tuxedo clad man marches along the encircling balcony, every few steps setting the gong he holds in his outstretched arm singing.  Upon the invitation the crowd begins to trickle though the door at the far end of the hall and into the unseen room beyond.

I follow through the spout like entrance in anticipation to discover myself in a larger room. Once inside I fully take in the vastness in attendance.  So many flood toward their numerically assigned tables to take their seats. I find mine deliciously close to a T shaped runway.

Tables are instantly served a delicate and elegant fare, and plates, once emptied, are immediately cleared away. At this bold, pronouncing music strikes up and swells into the air along with squeals of delight.   To the crowds astonishment...Cakes on parade! Hundreds of delicious confections are marched into the room, their frosting crowned in glow sticks!

This is the scene which unfolds before me at the 50th Annual Gold Coast Fashion Awards Show.
The 50th annual Gold Coast Fashion Award Show celebrated its anniversary at the Chicago Hilton on October 6th presenting its theme as the little black dress. For fifty years the members of the Children's Service Board have worked to raise money for woman and children through various events.  Founder Pinkie Garver brought the first tea and fashion show, in May of 1955, to the famed Chicago Pump Room.  The benefit was a success and continues to draw to date.

In 1986 the board joined forces with the Children's Memorial Hospital, and has since raised a remarkable 8 million dollars.  This year’s event brought a capacity crowd of 1500 to celebrate five decades of service and efforts, as well as to contribute towards the vision of the Children's Service Board.  This year's proceeds will be dedicated toward enabling the Children's Service Board to complete its 2.5 million pledge to the hospital's division of Cardiology.

The Gold Coast Fashion award show is not only one of their most successful fund raising events,  but it also is a highlight of the social and fashion calendar. One of the draws of this fashion award is that it is touted as one of the only awards in which the recipient is chosen by the retail shopper rather than the fashion community.  Last year's audience’s ballots were counted and tallied and the results would
bestow the Gold Coast Award to designer B. Michael.

B. Michael graciously accepted his award kicking off this year’s runway event with a very fitting statement, "Women who love fashion, and Women who support children, are the kind of women I want to dress."  The audience applauded this; for 400,000 dollars had been brought in through that afternoon’s event.  A record breaking amount for the Children's Service Board, a huge step towards completing the hospitals new addition.

The 2005 nominees competing to win this year's vote proceeded to show their collections on a fast paced upbeat fashion runway show. Esteban Cortazar kicked off the show with an energetic bang!  A fashion prodigy at only 21, Esteban had an appropriately fresh collection of sexy textures and chiffon and satin layers.

Alice Roi's collection sparked my interest. She offered a fun palette of ready to wear with a cheeky nod to mod hipsters sporting leggings and quirky prepster pieces. 
Doo-Ri Chung's designs, sensual and alluring, captivated me with her fluid silhouette and exquisite, immaculately draped Jersey.

Louis Verdad from LA explored the sophisticated side of fall. Playing with textures like tweed he explored new twists on old classics, with a keen attention to detail.
J. Mendel operates in a legacy of fur being the 5th generation in his family’s fur house.  The designs were luxurious, flirty, feminine and ultra glam.

Milly's designs were very accessible. She worked with romantic fabrics, velvet, satin and fur trim; producing flirtatious garments which were right on target for the smart, sexy, strong women of today.
Monique Lhuillier's who was raised in the Philippines, uprooted to LA, and forged a career designing for the red carpet. Her frothy creations have been spotted on Angelina Jolie, Tyra Banks, and Mariah Carey.

Wayne Clark of Calgary, Canada produces garments solely for runway and red carpet as well as a collection of sexy, classic, evening wear for the retail client.

At the completion of his collection ballots were collected to be tallied, and our attention was pleasantly diverted as fall '05 retail collections from Chanel, Escada, Frances Heffernan, Mark Shale, Max Mara, Neopolitan, and Neiman Marcus presenting Diane von Furstenberg, Nordstrom presenting Missoni, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche were paraded down the runway.
Presently following,   the vote was in! The verdict decided.  It was briefly announced that the 2005 recipient of the Gold Coast Fashion Award, who would accept this honor at next  years event, was Monique Lhuillier's.

The 50th annual Gold Coast Fashion Award Show was a successful testament to the tireless efforts of a dedicated and driven group.  The Children's Service Board and it's five decades of progressive work is as timeless, elegant, enduring, and alluring as this years theme; The Little Black Dress.

For more information about the Children's Service Board please visit

Photo By Scott Harrison for CFM