Daphne Guinness Dresses Up for the Old People Who Laugh at Her in Airports, Not the Fashion Crowd

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Daphne Guiness, looking ethereal in Calvin Klein. Photo: Adriel Reboh/PatrickMcMullan.com

Who needs Lady Gaga in the Hamptons when you've got Daphne Guinness? At the annual AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA) Cocktails at Sunset benefit on Steven Klein’s enormous estate in Bridgehampton, the heiress-artist wore a sort of haute couture Halloween costume in a crowd of women in summer dresses and men in bow ties and shorts. “I’m lightning!” she said, stretching out her arms and posing dramatically by the horse trough Klein had converted into a pool in the middle of a field. Guinness’s outfit consisted of a gray Calvin Klein dress, a headdress made of vintage flower jewelry and a silver veil, a cast iron bracelet molded to her arm and hand that functioned not unlike a wrist brace, and ten-or-so-inch platforms that looked suspiciously like Alexander McQueen lobster-claw heels (but were not).

Traveling the 100 yards or so from the pool to the silent art auction at the back of the event tent probably took close to an hour. Guinness held on to each partygoer in turn as she tottered over the uneven grass, burying her head in the crook of Klein’s neck at one point, and eventually suspending herself between a tent rope and a tent pole in some weird knock-kneed position that dropped her down ten inches and allowed her to stand on the side of her platforms rather than on their bottoms.

As she leaned forward to relieve her aching feet, Guinness accidentally spilled her Diet Coke on her Calvin Klein dress, and nearly knocked over a Julian Schnabel painting that had been propped against a nearby tent pole. But her feet were hurting so much, she explained, that she really didn’t care. “I sliced open my foot two days ago and I was supposed to get a bandage, but I didn’t, and I thought I’d be okay in these heels, because I can walk in any heels, but I’m not.”

Guinness looked around the party and sighed. “I’m dressed really weird.” Then again, she said she hadn’t dressed up for the fashion crowd. “I do it for the old people who laugh at me in airports,” she said. “I like to walk in with my heels and stand in front of people on their laptops and then drop down and suddenly they look up and you’re ten inches shorter,” she said, demonstrating her foot-relief technique. “And it gives everybody a good laugh. You can only dress like this if you get the humor of it.”

Guinness left before the Misshapes turned the music up so loud it probably could have been heard in Montauk, but Calvin Klein womenswear designer Francisco Costa gladly took over her center-of-attention duties. Quite the dancer, Costa grabbed the black shawl of a fellow partygoer and threw it over both their heads, turning the pair into a dirty-dancing fabric ghost. Then he proceeded to throw this reporter and Nacho Figueras’s wife, Delphine, around. CK menswear designer Italo Zucchelli was more reserved, but he did cop to having skinny-dipped during his morning run that day.

As for Gaga herself, she was nowhere to be seen, despite rumors that she and Madonna were hanging out in Klein’s house far away from the party. Steven Klein, as he does every year, made only a brief stop by the event for photos with Calvin Klein, Guinness, and some partygoers, then headed back to his idyllic life, which involves a constant flow of free wine from his neighbors, Channing Daughters Winery, and horse riding. He show jumps, like Betty Draper, but he’s never seen an episode of Mad Men, he said, because, “I don’t own a TV.” Nor does he want one: “I never get bored.”

Klein said he gladly would have helped Gaga find a house for the summer, but he doubted the rumors were true. “I didn’t know she was buying. She didn’t tell me. And she can’t be renting since she’s on tour for most of the summer.” Did he feel like Gaga was trying to copy Madonna, first with her style, and now her interest in hanging out in the Hamptons? “No,” he said, “she’s probably trying to copy me.”