Houston fashion icon, 85, sings Italian love songs to turn a River Oaks crowd into mush

Balways my heart. Favorite American fashion designer of the 70s and 80s, Victor Costa, absolutely enchanted the crowded River Oaks Country Club ballroom when he took the stage for a serenade with two Italian love songs. The stunning 85-year-old Houston native was the guest of honor at the second annual fundraiser for the Italian Cultural and Community Center.

More than one had tears in their eyes, including his wife Jerry Ann Woodfin Costa, as he sang. The dapper gentleman received standing ovations not only for his singing but also for his design prowess as models paraded the runway in a collection of his fabulous dresses and gowns. Dazzling jewelry on loan to the models by the owner of Valobra Master Jewelers added high marks to the fashion show. Franco Valobra, whose family founded the jewelry house in Turin, Italy, over 100 years ago.

Ann Ayre, Brian McCulloch, Marla Hurley, Tara Martin at lunch at the Italian cultural and community center La Dolce Vita. (Photo by Michelle Watson (CatchLightGroup.com))

On a day like this celebrating all things Italian, it becomes important for ladies of Italian descent to honor their maiden names. So the lunch chairs Patti Imbrogno Murphy and Cheryl Arolfo Byington did just that by welcoming the crowd.

The chairs were among the fashionable celebrity models Victor Costa, many of whom would pass for new looks on today’s party circuit. Models included Katie Cullen, Reindeer Jongebloed, Monica Ercolani, Joyce Frassanito, Jenee Bobbora and Gina Gusemano Leck. In a surprise to the public, Nicole Pactor Graham swept the podium Roz Bilao Pactorthe Victor Costa wedding dress, and Lauren Leck paraded in the Victor Costa wedding dress worn by her mother Gina Gusemano Leck.

PC seen: Rose (Saragusa) Cullen, Vicky Rizzo, Monica Ercolani, Susan and Denis DeBakey, Lauren Abbott, Nicole and Michael Graham, Brian McCulloch, Leisa Holland-Nelson, Jacquie Baly Craig, fashion show coordinator Jeanne Ruberti, Neiman Marcus Managing Director Chris Hendel, master of ceremonies Owen Conflenti of KPRC Channel 2 and Executive Director of the Italian Cultural and Community Center Erika Myers.

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Grace D. Erickson

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