Di a La Mode

updated 02/13/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/13/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

IF THE PRINCESS OF WALES HAD EXPECTED New York City's most stylish to greet her with a certain reserve, she was wrong. When she rose to present an award at the Council of Fashion Designers of America bash—the Oscars of the fashion world—at Lincoln Center on Jan. 30, a bedazzled fan shouted, "Move to New York!" Although Di seemed to miss the outburst, tout Seventh Avenue—Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Richard Tyler and a slew of supermodels—laughed appreciatively.

Never mind that she missed a chance to rendezvous with John Kennedy Jr. (he and sister Caroline declined to appear at the gala), who bowed out of an intimate luncheon at the home of magazine publisher Randolph Hearst—after reportedly angling for a invitation. Wearing a strappy blue sheath by favorite British designer Catherine Walker, she wowed 8 the $l,000-a-seat crowd, who buzzed over her new ducktail do. (A love-hate proposition, they decided.) A delighted Donna Karan, who sat at Di's table, was definitely on the pro side. "She's so beautiful. She has an aura about her that is wonderful." Swedish model Vendela was impressed with the inner Di. "She's a great role model," she said. "She left a husband that was cheating on her and stood up for herself. And she does a lot of good things for people."

Di's one-day jaunt was, in fact, a goodwill mission: After Concording from London and settling into the tony Carlyle, she visited children on the AIDS ward at Harlem Hospital. At the CFDA fete, Diana presented an award to fellow Brit Elizabeth Tilberis, 47, the editor of Harper's Bazaar and an ovarian cancer survivor—saying she was "immensely proud" to honor "a dear friend...whose talent and courage have been an inspiration to us all." And, it seems, who pried Di away from her frumpy Sloane Ranger look: as an editor at British Vogue, Tilberis helped transform her into Britain's most glamorous asset. No one at the gala, at least, was questioning the royal style: Said presenter Fran Drescher {The Nanny): "She is the best dressed princess I know—besides me."

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