It might be fashion’s biggest party of the year but there’s a deeply romantic sense of melancholy around this year’s theme. The exhibition, titled “Sleeping Beauties: Awakening Fashion,” focuses on fashion and clothing that is so fragile that it cannot be worn again. Even more bittersweet is the dress code: The Garden of Time, taken from a short story by J.G. Ballard about fleeting beauty.

This year, Tory invited Uma Thurman and Brazilian actress and Bruna Marquezine, who both wore custom Tory Burch dresses. For Thurman, Tory was inspired by an extinct butterfly: the American Xerxes blue. “It had the most extraordinary iridescent blue wings that reminded me of Uma’s eyes,” Tory explained. The blue silk taffeta gown featured hundreds of hand-cut, hand-painted silk organza butterflies, delicately applied to silk-wrapped wire so as to appear to be floating above her shoulders and back.

Marquezine looked fresh and ethereal in a pale blush silk organza gown with a hand-molded corset and multi-layered hoop skirt on horsehair mesh. The full skirt was embellished with an abundance of hand-cut silk flowers, dyed in a gradient of ivory, pale green and rust. “We imagined flowers from the past,” said Tory, “preserved, beautifully aged and not too precious.”

Tory herself wore an Alexander McQueen dress from her own closet, with a deconstructed corset and full skirt embellished with silk poppies. It was designed by her friend Sarah Burton, a custom version of the final look in the Spring 2018 collection.