It's all about the dress.
Strapless. Backless. Floor length. Cocktail style. Basic black. Hot red. Rich gold. Shimmery silver.
For new first lady Kathleen Sandoval, it was chartreuse green, made of raw silk in Victorian style by a Reno designer, a made-in-Nevada touch for Friday night's inaugural ball that signaled a fresh era under Gov. Brian Sandoval.
In: homemade and hand stitched at a cost of close to $1,000.
Out: haute couture like the $10,000 Giorgio Armani gown former first lady Dawn Gibbons wore four years ago, setting tongues wagging that the burgundy velvet outfit was a bit much.
"With all due respect, it is the greatest dress in the room," Gov. Sandoval said from the stage, addressing 2,000 people who turned out at a Wynn Las Vegas ballroom to help him celebrate less than a month since the Republican took office.
The first lady said it took designer Gini Vogel and her students at the University of Nevada, Reno two weeks to put it together, including a form-fitting bodice and rust-colored jacket she wore over the lime-green dress.
"I don't know about you, but I personally think they did a wonderful job," she said, winning applause.
The dress mostly won raves, although one naysayer dismissed it as "a little bit too neon green for me."
Marilyn Crawford, an admirer of the Sandovals who moved to Las Vegas only 18 months ago, said chartreuse is in these days and America's first lady Michelle Obama has worn the color as a bold fashion statement.
"The woman makes the dress," Crawford said as she and a friend approached Mrs. Sandoval to get a closer look. "And our first lady is quite a person. It's a dress. It's who designed the dress. And it's the woman in the dress. It's all good."
Friday night, it was all wine and roses and good feelings as politicians from both parties set aside their differences for one night to dance, dine and welcome the state's 30th governor as he gets down to work for his four-year term.
Nevada's entire congressional delegation attended except for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, including Republican Sen. John Ensign and Reps. Dean Heller and Joe Heck, and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley.
The state's top officials on hand included Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, Secretary of State Ross Miller, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and State Treasurer Kim Wallin. Former Govs. Bob Miller, Dick Bryan and Bob List were there, too, as well as former first lady Dema Guinn, whose husband, Kenny, died last year when he fell from the roof of their Las Vegas home.
"I wish my husband could be here tonight. He would be so proud," said Guinn, chairwoman of the ball.
Guinn came out despite fracturing her right hip in three places on Dec. 20 after falling down at a supermarket. She walked assisted on stage and said she has been up and using a cane as she undergoes physical therapy to regain her strength.
Although the evening was mostly for fun, Sandoval addressed the gathering for more than five minutes after a video montage that included waving flags and his Jan. 2 inaugural address in which he promised "to get Nevada working again."
Sandoval called Guinn a mentor, whom he served as attorney general.
"I hope that I can fill his shoes," Sandoval said.
The governor said another mentor, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, sent a gift to his Las Vegas hotel room Friday night to welcome him to the job: Laxalt's old cowboy boots, which Sandoval wore with his formal black tux.
Sandoval praised another ball guest, Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, and said he was looking forward to working with the Democrat and other lawmakers during the Nevada legislative session that begins Feb. 7.
"We do have a lot of work ahead of us," Sandoval said. "And we have to work together.
"I'll say it again -- Nevada's best days are coming," he added, repeating a phrase from his inaugural address.
After the speeches, the first couple led the room with a first dance to "Nothing's Going to Stop Us Now" by Jefferson Starship. Their two daughters, Maddie, 14, and Marissa, 6, joined them, with the youngest girl being lifted into her parents arms.
Friday's night's ball was the first of two inaugural balls with the second scheduled for tonight in Reno.
Tickets ranged from $100 to $1,000 for the chance to get a photo taken with the new governor and his wife.
Corporate sponsors of the balls gave at least $700,000 at $25,000, $10,000 or $5,000 each.
Extra proceeds from the balls will go to three selected charities, Quest Counseling & Consulting, Reno; Community Chest, Virginia City; and Bridge Counseling Associates, Las Vegas, according to the inaugural ball committee.
Kathleen Sandoval's dress was at least the third made by a Nevada designer. The other two were worn by former first lady Bette Sawyer, 1959-67, and former first lady Sandy Miller, 1989-99. Their dresses are among a dozen inaugural ball gowns displayed by the Nevada State Museum, where the current first lady's dress probably will go at some point.
Vogel, the UNR designer, said she was approached by Sandoval's senior adviser, Dale Erquiaga, about making the dress. Erquiaga graduated from the university, which the governor also attended. It required several fitting sessions, including the last on Thursday in order to complete the finishing touches by a 6 p.m. deadline the day before the ball.
"This dress is very much Mrs. Sandoval's style, comfortable but classy, a modern take on the Victorian style," said Vogel, who has designed dresses for theater productions in the past. "I think she looks comfortable and stunning."
The silk dupioni has a shimmering, iridescent quality. The fabric cost $600, and Vogel and her students worked for free.
She made two bodices and jackets so the first lady could wear different tops at the two balls. One bodice was made with lace and the other with chiffon, while the two jackets had different touches, including one beaded button that took four hours to craft.
"I heard that Vera Wang once did a dress for some Hollywood celebrity in four days, but she probably didn't have to teach at the same time," Vogel said. "The process went smoothly. I was about to design something and we were able to talk about it with Mrs. Sandoval. I think she's very happy with it. And the most important thing to me is that she feels comfortable in it."
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919.