Fashionable Guests at the Tudor Place Garden Party

Last Wednesday’s weather didn’t put a damper on the fashion of the guests at the 20th anniversary of the Tudor Place’s garden party. Washingtonians clad in polka dots, feathers, seersucker, and pearls of every color stepped through the front door, accepting a glass of lemonade, vodka, mint, and honey syrup—a Bee’s Buzz—as they were greeted by a fife and field drum corps playing Revolutionary War-era tunes.

Nearly 20,000 people a year come to visit the historic Georgetown mansion, tucked behind an iron gate on 31st and Q streets, Northwest, to witness almost 200 years of American history preserved in the former home of George Washington’s granddaughterMartha Parke Custis Peter and her husband, Thomas Peter. Besides serving as a museum and a relic of Washingtoniana, the National Historic Landmark also welcomes 3,000 students and teachers each year.

The honoree of this year’s garden party, Austin H. Kiplinger—the 93-year-old philanthropist, historian, and publisher of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine—was the center of attention at the soiree, which raised more than $200,000 for Tudor Place.

But the ensembles of the guests ran a close second. “This is my least fascinating fascinator,” said Randy O’Donoghue, smiling as she touched her white-feather-and-pearl-encrusted headpiece. She is a co-owner of Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, which supplied the custom-labeled bottles of wine for the event.

“I built my outfit from the bottom up!” said Marcia Carter, of the erstwhile antiquarian book shop Booked Up. About her choice of lime green rainboots, she explained, “I live right down the block and wondered, ‘What do I want to wear in the rain tonight?’”

According to curator Erin Kuykendall, the layout of Tudor Place was designed to be “a dream for entertaining,” and this night was no exception. Roses and hydrangeas, stuffed into blue and white china vases, adorned every table. A jazz trio filled the air with the sounds of electric guitar, saxophone, and bass.

In the end, though, it was Kiplinger who brought the Peter family charm to the evening. “There’s a continuity of life,” he said into a microphone looking out at the crowd of 350 people. He lifted his gaze past the tent and up toward the house. “We can cope with the present and future better, I think, if we learn about the past.”

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