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The Art of the Invitation

Erika Heet

When the invitations for Truman Capote’s 1966 Black and White Ball arrived from Tiffany & Co. bearing an incorrect address for the Plaza Hotel—the event’s venue—the host, with no time to have them redone, simply crossed out the mistake and added the right number. He also wrote an afterthought on each one, in his signature craggy hand, to explain that the soiree was in honor of publisher Katharine Graham. Despite the scrawl, the invitations—simple white cards framed in yellow and orange—instantly became the most coveted items among New York City’s elite.

"An invitation is always a welcome thing," says Peter Hopkins, the historian for Crane & Co., which has been making cards for all manner of events since 1801. Past creations from the company include Grover Cleveland’s invitation to the dedication of the Statue of Liberty; Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s somber 1942 holiday wish for a "happier" new year; and the dedications of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

No matter the occasion, the invitation can be a work of art in itself, accented with embossing, gilding, calligraphy, letterpress, and even integrations of flora, lace, and ribbon—all treatments that have been employed in varied ways over the years. The invitations shown above and in "Setting Pretty" (see pages 40–46), created by Marc Friedland of Creative Intelligence, incorporate some of these techniques to complement their respective events. The convex wine-and-cheese-party invitation almost takes the shape of what is to be served; the crisp toile border of the Sunday-brunch invite beckons; the formal-dinner request displays a decorous soupçon of black-velvet ribbon. Each card suits the occasion well and serves as an artful reminder of moments in life worth celebrating.

Whether for an elegant formal fete or an "if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me" affair, an invitation is indeed a cherished article to receive.

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