03/15/2012 07:15 pm ET Updated May 15, 2012

Coco and Some Coquettes at the MidWinter Gala

Coco Chanel would have appreciated the coquettes who artfully arrayed themselves at the Legion of Honor for the MidWinter Gala. Invited by the organizing Junior Committee, these guests knew they had responded to a coveted invitation, and were not going to miss their chance to establish their presence in support of the Fine Arts Museums and their own good graces. Taking their cues from the Mademoiselle and the brand she begat, the women received a double, intertwined C for concerted chic. Blowdryers all over SF had been buzzing all afternoon, cementing updos and eyelashes in earnest.

There was something amusing about the lithe, dressed-to-the-nines nifties enjoying their cocktails amongst the corporeal muscle-bound bronze nudes of the Rodin Sculpture Gallery. But Rodin focused on the male form, not the gym-sculpted females who had served as their own Pygmalions this evening. The MidWinter Gala is all about the damsel in a dress, ideally purveyed by the marquee sponsor Chanel, whose ravishing décor was enough to want the damsels to remain entrapped in this castle for quite some time. The ladies were themselves mostly works of art, with the teensiest touch of artifice to demonstrate their effort. Invited gentlemen obliged by appearing in their Saturday best, with embellishments as allowable. (Joel Goodrich, your shoes were duly noted.)

Fundraising aside (although never too far out of the limelight), the evening offered the opportunity for the Heights' yummie mummies to make it a date night, for the sexy single seekers to size up the (small "S") situation, for cooing couples to cement their status on one anothers' arms. Some stalwarts chose to go stag for the night, to no detriment -- this crowd knows one another from way back when the Junior Committee had barely jettisoned the children's table. Judging by the trouble the gracious McCall's staff had in actually compelling guests to leave the cocktail clamor and be seated for dinner, the exquisitely decorated courtyard of the Legion might as well have been a rickety card table off Aunt Alma's kitchen.

Once they did sit move to the courtyard, they were treated to a double feast, eyes first and palate second. Marquee Sponsor Chanel created a swoon with the all-black tent that served as a smoky backdrop for encircled crystal chandeliers and thousands of white candles. Purple cattleya orchids alternated in silver julep cups with deep burgundy anemonies, the only touch of color on an otherwise black, grey, and silver table. A calligraphied menu doubled as a place card, with a deeply silver-stamped typescript that carried the heft of a debutante invitation. In keeping with the convivial spirit of the soiree, the meal was a perfect riff on francais bistro fare: a lovely pastry-capped tomato bisque and butter lettuce salad, classic filet with bernaise and spring vegetables, with guilty-pleasure cones of frites passed table-side, and an irresistible tart tatin with caramel walnut gelato. Alexis Swanson Traina, whose husband Trevor warmly called the Committee meeting to order, generously donated the delectable Swanson wines to accompany each course: the pear-scented Pinot Grigio, an oaky Oakville Merlot in magnum, and an ambrosial Angelica to add abundance to excess and encourage abundant bidding on the laudable live auction items.

Those duties were ably carried out by event sponsor Christies' auction house, which had flown its top auctioneer, Los Angeles President Andrea Fiuczynski up to coax up the bidding six irresistible items: tickets to the Chanel fashion show in Paris, dinners at French Laundry and Quince, a tea party at the Palace Hotel, a bowling party at Lucky Strike, a dinner party at the Fine Arts Museum, weekly H.Bloom floral delivery. Bidding paddles were dispensed with in favor of old-fashioned nods and waves, the better to confuse a sidelong shift in the seat with a show of support.

Once the tables were cleared and the Woodhouse Chocolates consumed, the turntables were turned once more, and Chanel's midnight tent became the MidWinter revels. The art of celebration and seduction became the exhibit on the dance floor, as the evening wound up and then down to a coco-phanous, coquettish close.

Stretching the canvass: Honorary Chairs Vanessa Getty and Trevor Traina, along with Committee Chairs Kathryn Lasater and the equally effective and effusive Allison Speer; Event Sponsors Marissa Mayer and Zach Bogue, Jean-Pierre Conte, Mo Clancy and Nathaniel David, Jeana Toney and Boris Putanec, Sloan and Roger Barnett, Carol and Shelby Bonnie, Paula and Bandel Carano, Jeremy Stoppelman, Connie Nielsen, Juliet de Baubigny, Anna and Mason Morfit, Serena and Alec Perkins, Gina and Stuart Peterson, Mary Beth and David Shimmon. Co-Chairs, Benefactors, and Members of the Committee, too numerous to mention but gloriously in appearance, helped make the MidWinter into one of the magical moments of the year.