Last night, on Wednesday, August 10, ailurophiles (that is, cat lovers) flocked to New York City's storied Algonquin Hotel in midtown Manhattan for the 10th Annual Cat Fashion Show and an evening filled with sophistication, style, and lots of lint rollers. Felines wearing tiny wigs, outfits, and accessories designed by certified animal fashion designer Ada Nieves strutted around the hotel’s lobby as guests clad in kitty-inspired apparel took photos, enjoyed refreshments, and tried to spot the Algonquin Hotel’s famous lobby cat, a Ragdoll named Matilda III, lurking near the concierge desk.
The Algonquin has owned a series of pampered rescue cats since the early 1920s. Over the decades, 11 kitties have called the luxury lodging home. The male cats are typically named Hamlet after the late stage actor John Barrymore, a notable Algonquin guest who played the cursed Danish king. As for the female cats, they’re called Matilda. (The hotel’s current pet, Matilda III, came to the hotel in 2010 after she was abandoned outside the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, New York.)
Since 2006, the Algonquin Hotel has celebrated its famous feline residents with an elaborate fashion show. Ticket proceeds are donated to a charitable cause. Last night’s event aimed to raise $10,000 for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. This year, additional funds were also raised through a silent auction offering cat-themed prizes, and an on-site mobile adoption unit parked in front of the hotel from 3 to 7 p.m. offered attendees the chance to take home their very own rescue kitty.
Along with the charity which receives the funds, the fashion show’s theme changes every year. This year attendees celebrated “Through the Decades,” a theme that honored “the iconic looks of the hotel’s most famous guests and patrons, including Al Hirschfeld, Michael Feinstein, Marilyn Monroe, John Barrymore and many more," according to a statement from the Algonquin.
Keeping with the historic vibe, last night’s cat models were clad in pink cocktail dresses, theatric capes, bowler hats, baseball uniforms, and curly wigs. But the evening's guest of honor, Matilda, didn't dress up for the show.
“We tried once—and it was not pretty,” said Alice de Almeida, the Algonquin Hotel’s “chief cat officer." De Almeida’s job, she tells mental_floss, is to make sure Matilda is “always comfortable, she has all her needs, and she's happy.” De Almeida also manages Matilda III’s social media accounts.
When Matilda III first made her “grand debut” at the Algonquin in 2010, “we thought it would be great if we gave her a royal robe trimmed in fake fur,” de Almeida explained. “It didn’t work.” (Matilda herself only made one or two appearances at last night's fashion show before disappearing into a back room.)
As for the writers, critics, actors, and humorists who populated the Algonquin Hotel’s infamous Round Table, what would they think of their former haunt hosting a cat fashion show?
“They really liked making fun of people, so they would have thought this was hilarious,” said Kevin Fitzpatrick, president and founder of the Dorothy Parker Society, who attended last night’s celebration. “I mean, think about it: You're here for a cat fashion show, so that's kind of humorous right there."
Parker and her friends would likely satirize the humans—not the animals—in attendance, Fitzpatrick told mental_floss. The Round Table’s members "were animal lovers," he said. "Dorothy Parker always had a dog her entire life, ever since she was a little girl, and a lot of them had pets. They all betted on the horses, too, so they were big horse lovers. They would have thought this was hilarious.”
Here’s a sampling of some of the best looks and mew-ments from last night’s show:
American caricaturist Al Hirschfeld
American critic, writer, and satirist Dorothy Parker
Baseball player Joe DiMaggio
Musician Michael Feinstein
American comedian and second-oldest of the Marx Brothers
My Fair Lady (written in Room 502 of the Algonquin Hotel by Broadway lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Lowe)
Actor John Barrymore, as Hamlet
The Algonquin Hotel's future: the "Millennial Cat"
Actor Douglas Fairbanks, as Robin Hood
Matilda, the famous Algonquin Hotel cat, didn't participate in the fashion show—but she did make a brief appearance in the hotel lobby.
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