For decades, the Academy of Music's annual concert and ball was the high point of the Philadelphia social scene, where the well-connected - the Annenbergs, Elkins, Dilworths, and Snellenbergs - mingled with sitting presidents and Nobel Prize winners.

Men donned white ties and top hats. Women opted for pavement-sweeping ball gowns in soft white and winter pastels by the day's chicest designers: Elizabeth Arden, Christian Dior, and even James Galanos.

After the concert, high-society couples embarked on a stylish promenade. This newspaper described it as the town's best-heeled parade - to the champagne dinner and dance. Tiaras sparkled under the Broad Street lights.

The Academy Ball, first held in 1957 to celebrate the Academy of Music's 100th anniversary, was more than a fund-raiser. It defined Philadelphia's fashion landscape - so much so that Nan Duskin held a pre-ball fashion show for years - with the families of means establishing the best-dressed rules.

Undebatable: It was the most fashionable event of the year in Philadelphia. Is it still?

These days, we take our social cues from Instagram and Pinterest. A-list stars make the fashion rules on awards show red carpets, where the frothy gowns are seen instantly on E!'s new Glambot from all vantage points, and subsequently posted on Twitter, after which amateur fashion sleuths make their own slide shows using the latest in nifty apps. You don't have to be somebody to witness the latest and greatest trendsetters.

That's not to say that the Academy Ball isn't fashionable, that you won't find dresses there that mirror ones celebrities will wear on the next day's Screen Actors Guild red carpet.

You'll see nice, tasteful, expensive dresses, but the ball is not setting style standards anymore, and it doesn't need to.

That's because it's not the only game in town. In fact, I've probably received at least one charity evite a week since late October. Just last weekend, there were dueling red-carpet galas - Hair O' the Dog, with proceeds going to Penn State's THON, and the Lemon Ball, which benefits Alex's Lemonade Stand.

They represent different social causes held dear by different generations. And, unlike at the Academy Ball, the Gen Xers and millennials who dominate these newer events don't mind mixing high and low, H&M pieces with looks from Saks Fifth Avenue (which is, in fact, a very fashionable thing to do).

"A DVF dress with some Valentino shoes can be just as fashionable as a $5,000 Balenciaga," said Jen Rodak, 42, of Bryn Mawr. She's one of the cochairs of Cheers for CHOP, a benefit for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

So, while a Judith Leiber may be a classic - and a mainstay at the Academy Ball - an Edie Parker is hot now - and less likely to be seen there.

Not to mention, the downturn in 2009 forever changed the way women approach dressing for swank events.

After all, when first lady Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton began repeating their evening wear, it sent a message that we could, too. And when Rent the Runway came on the scene, it meant even the regular among us could afford to wear a glittery Badgley Mischka to a gala on Thursday and a Marchesa to an event on Friday.

But the fact that the Academy Ball has lots of competition doesn't mean it isn't worth the attention of armchair fashionistas. (I'll be there taking notes and pictures, so please know who designed your dress.)

The gala will still be in full effect Saturday night - even if everyone is arriving in galoshes and UGGs. David Schwartz of Sophy Curson predicts lots of white, prints, and lace overlays. Does he foresee sleeves?

"Maybe. That's a personal choice," Schwartz says.

Blush tones and turquoise also will be likely.

Although Tricia Wellenbach of Center City, who is in her 50s, is a longtime Academy Ball-goer, she has attended more red-carpet events in recent years. But she still cherishes this one.

"It's my step-it-out-girl night," she says.

Not one to spill the sartorial beans with a lot of description, she did agree to tell me her dress was a David Meister from Saks Fifth Avenue.

But don't be jealous. If you don't have tickets to Saturday night's affair, just wait a week. There will be another gala.

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@ewellingtonphl