Out onto the red-carpeted ramp they came, 27 beautifully coiffured ladies wearing some of the most stunning creations ever seen east of Paris. Before a capacity house, they moved on stage against a background of soft, lilting music and the voice of a commentator rippling off those famous names: "Christian Dior ... Jacques Griffe ... Simonetta of Rome." It was the fashion event of the year and it took place in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, headquarters of the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco).
Dhahran, naturally enough, has never been a fashion-conscious community. The nature of the weather, a preference for casual living and the lack of frequent contact with the style centers in Europe and America have combined to restrain the female instinct for high style dressing. But even in towns more normally interested in petroleum than Pucci—Dhahran, Abqaiq and Ras Tanura—there were always many women who made their own clothes. And a growing number of them in the past few years had gone on to haute couture sewing. Taking advantage of original-design patterns as conceived in such famed European houses as Nina Ricci, Jeanne Lanvin and Ronald Peterson of London, and the increasing range of fabrics appearing in the local markets, these women began to satisfy their craving for more formality in their mode of living by reproducing in Saudi Arabia the best from the fashion houses of the West. When the suggestion was made that the ladies of the three oil communities put on a fashion show to help the Arab refugees in Jordan, they eagerly responded.
Weeks of preparation went into the event; at times it seemed as if all of Dhahran were participating. On the big evening more than 600 people turned out, including large numbers of male spectators, drawn by a mixture of pride in their wives' talents and a desire to help alleviate, in a small way, the plight of the Arab refugees. The result was an evening of glamor in one part of the Arab world that would bring a bit of comfort and gladness to another less fortunate one.