SARATOGA SPRINGS — As Kay Thompson sang in the classic film “Funny Face,” “think pink.”
In honor of the late Marylou Whitney, the New York Racing Association is encouraging people to wear pink to the Saratoga Race Course Saturday for the Grade I Whitney Stakes.
“Let’s face it, she was the grande dame [of Saratoga],” said Natalie Sillery, owner of Saratoga Trunk.
Whitney was known around Saratoga Springs for her philanthropy, for her success as a thoroughbred owner and involvement with the backstretch, and her love of the color pink. She was often seen wearing it at Saratoga Race Course and various functions around the city. Whitney also had a rose, hybridized by Brad Jalbert, named after her. The fragrant pale pink flower has been featured at Yaddo Gardens and Congress Park.
Over the last few days, Sillery has noticed that people coming in the store looking for pink hats, though not necessarily in a certain shade.
“I dressed Marylou a lot, for 25 years,” Sillery said. The philanthropist was a fan of designers like Bill Blass, Albert Nipon and Kay Unger, according to Sillery, and would go for just about any gradient of pink, from fuchsia to blush pink.
As co-owner of the Pink Paddock, Kim Burton could be considered an expert on the color. Indeed, her Broadway shop is filled with varying shades of the color.
“We have a sea of pink [here] and I think that’s what would be so lovely this weekend is to just see varying shades of it,” Burton said.
Throughout the last few days, shoppers have been looking for dresses like the pink and white lace Sienna dress from Lilly Pulitzer. The strapless style has a pink grosgrain waist sash, which people can swap out for other accessories as they see fit.
“I know this dress is going to the track, specifically for Saturday,” Burton said in an interview with the Gazette, pointing to a vibrant pink shift dress from Trina Turk. It’s a long and loose style dress, with straps made of delicate gold-colored chains, which can double as a necklace.
For a more form-fitting look, she’s seeing customers opt for a two-tone Lily Pulitzer Kade dress, with a splash of gold flower lace around the waist, or the Blossom dress, which is fitted at the top with an a-line bottom; its best feature is perhaps the deep pockets found on the sides. As far as accessories go, shoppers are going with pink gingham shoes or crossbody bag, both in bright shades of pink.
Just as there is no “right shade” to wear today, there’s no right style.
“I’ve seen [Marylou] in varying styles. Always perfectly put together, not a stitch out of place,” Burton said.
She knew Whitney well, as the Pink Paddock sponsored the Whitney Cup at Saratoga Polo for many years.
“Lily corporate would come up and paint the entire clubhouse and deck out the tables. It was always such a colorful event and Marylou always seemed so happy,” Burton said.
Since Whitney died on July 19, people around Saratoga have been mourning her loss and reminiscing about her, said Burton.
“Wherever I am, people are talking about what an incredible loss this is,” Burton said.
Joyce Locks, the owner of Hatsational, has also heard people buzzing about Whitney. “Marylou was such an icon,” Locks said.
Her shop is packed with hats and fascinators in pink, with a special display of pale and blush pinks. “As a matter of fact, our stock is low in pink,” Locks said.
Beyond the Whitney celebrations at the racecourse, she’s also found that people are buying them for a few different fundraisers that encourage people, including men, to wear pink.
“It’s not just women. Men respect what’s going on,” Locks said.
Men have been coming into the store looking for pops of pink accessories, like a faux flower lapel pin, or a pink-checkered pocket square. They’ve also opted for vibrant pink ties and bowties and Panama hats with pink ribbons or detailing. Those who want to go all-in on the color have gone with a full suit in pale pink.
Encouraging people to wear pink on Saturday is just one of the ways the city is commemorating Whitney.
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame on Friday inducted Whitney into the Pillars of the Turf category. Saratoga Springs also plans to rename Centennial Park (which is at the base of Union Avenue adjoining Congress Park) as “Marylou Whitney Park.” The clubhouse at Saratoga Race Course will also be renamed in her honor as the “Marylou Whitney Entrance.”
Today, NYRA will host “Marylou Whitney Day,” showing a video tribute to the “Queen of Saratoga.” For more info visit nyra.com.