Substance greets style for awards

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Washington Life magazine and Saks Fifth Avenue hosted their fourth-annual Men and Women of Substance and Style awards Monday night at Saks’ Chevy Chase store, and, as always, the awardees were mostly substance, the atmosphere pure style. About 250 guests dressed with flair appropriate to the occasion — which required lots of air-kissing, sipping mojitos and tasting delicacies from area restaurants (barbecued clams casino from the Oceanaire Seafood Room, tuna sashimi from Chef Geoff’s, mini eclairs from Mie N Yu) amid racks of $300 silk shirts and $3,000 designer gowns.

A head-turning show of designer David Rodriguez’s fall line preceded the brief award ceremony, with top-notch models in blacks, grays, browns and maroons parading past a crowd that included former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, Debbie Dingell, Mary Margaret Valenti, Mandy and Mary Ourisman, Ann Hand, Rima al-Sabah, Wyatt and Tandy Dickerson, Deborah Sigmund and event chairwoman Lisa Gordon-Hagerty. Fox-5’s Laura Evans was a perky emcee, dressed in a beige leather jacket designed by Mr. Rodriguez.

Alma Powell, chosen for her work as vice chairman of the Kennedy Center and chairman of the America’s Promise charity, wore a simple blue suit and pearls. “I don’t know that I fit in with the ‘style’ part” of the award, she said, “so I decided just to be low-key.” Also honored were David Domenici, executive director of the See Forever Foundation, which established the Maya Angelou Charter School for at-risk youngsters in Washington; Diana Goldberg, chairman of the board at Children’s National Medical Center; Ludy Green, president of Second Chance Employment Services, which offers free job-placement help to at-risk women; Sean Tuohey, director of Playing for Peace; Jan Verhage, executive director of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital; and lawyer Riley Temple, founder of the True Colors Theatre Company.

Mr. Temple was frank in explaining his own personal style. “I only wear bow-ties, principally because I eat out a lot and [long] ties get ruined,” he said before noting that the award shouldn’t be thought of as a prize for good fashion sense, but as a means to honor those “who have made significant contributions improving the lives of others.”

About $80,000 was raised for Wired Kids, an all-volunteer organization that works to protect children from Internet sexual exploitation. Nancy Bagley, editor in chief of Washington Life, said that awareness of the issue had increased dramatically after the recent tsunami, when news organizations reported Internet-organized sex tours that included visits to orphanages in Southeast Asia.

Parry Aftab, a privacy lawyer who quit her lucrative practice to start Wired Kids after seeing Web images of a 3-year-old child being raped, thanked the chic guests for their support, and hoped they’d do even more for the cause. “When Washington cares,” she said, “Washington can move mountains.”

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