"All aboard!" cried the conductor of the Trans-Siberian Express at Red Square in Moscow, a.k.a. the Textile Museum on S Street NW. Most of the passengers were obviously bound for the exotic Orient, dressed in turn-of-the-century Chinese and Japanese silks and brocades, black tie and contemporary American designer wear.
"I love trains. I was engaged on one," said Katrina de Carbonnel, head of the benefit committee, explaining the theme of last night's benefit for the conservation lab at the museum.
The first stop: Russia. Guests were greeted with Russian vodka and caviar-stuffed new potatoes. "That's WOD-ka," enunciated museum trustee Harry Keshishian, with Samurai-type robe over his black tie. He then tossed off a phrase of seemingly fluent Russian. "That means, 'Do you speak Russian?' " he translated.
"Am I on the Wall?" pondered one guest perched on the border between Russia and China, flanked on one side by Russian folk dancers and on the other by a giant stuffed Chinese cloth dragon, museum tapestries and costumes and egg rolls.
Maj. Gen. Walter C. Pew, once a lawyer for the museum's founder, George Hewett Meyers, now a trustee, was dressed American-style. Dr. Jean Henschel of the Energy Department wore Chinese red silk decorated with a sequined, five-toed imperial dragon. Melissa Woods, a professional rug restorer who teaches classes at the museum, was antique Chinese, dating as far back as 200 years. Lydia Preston was hodge-podge Oriental in a black kimono embroidered with purple, white and green flowers. "The headdress? It's geisha-type. I had these things stuck in a perfume bottle for years," said Preston, describing her traveling suit.
"They combine artistic achievement with economic success," said 10-year trustee Russell Pickering of the museum's success in the face of dwindling federal money earmarked for the arts. "We will survive."
Sushi and American music greeted guests at "Kyoto Gardens," as the last stop was called. It was decorated with contemporary Japanese textiles. Mrs. Yoshio Okawara, the honorary benefit chairman and wife of the Japanese ambassador, instructed guests in Japanese cuisine. "I had to think about accepting the chairmanship for two weeks," she said, now pleased with the results.