Not since the war between the States have two groups come face-to-face with such different views. That moment took place at the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum’s 2016 Mad Hatter’s Tea and Luncheon on Thursday, April 21.
On one hand, many guests looked as if they were attending the opening day at the Royal Ascot with dazzling hats. Robin Carreker, Connie Carreker, Hedy Sawyers, Lauren Palmer, Linda Spina, Lisa Ogle and Kunthear Mam Douglas interrupted the “Steel Magnolias” theme with ever-proper sunhats that would have thrilled any Southern belle. Delicate fascinators also had their day in the sun thanks to Women’s Council President Renee Querbes Farren, Betsy Crousen, SuSu Meyers and Britta Harless.
On the other hand were those who appeared to have channeled Johnny Depp wearing outlandish headdresses that would have made Lady Gaga go gaga.
For some, the over-the-top toppers were a wee bit daunting. One wide-eyed guest, who hadn’t attended the event since her mother took her ages ago, looking around the Plaza whispered, “I’m scared.” Another one upon entering the scene with lips zipped managed a request — “Please don’t mention I was here.”
As the two brimming groups gathered in the Ginsburg Plaza for a champagne reception with a Cajun band playing, it became apparent that glue guns had been drained leading up to the event. Instead of hiring a professional designer to create her hat, Sherwood Wagner pulled out all the stops and created three showstoppers for herself and her buddies Marena Gault and daughter Marielle Gault.
Appearing to be a walking promotion for Truvy’s beauty parlor, Carmen Surgent was top heavy with rollers, Aqua Net, a hair dryer and mirror, all in Shelby’s signature color of pink.
Barbara Bigham decided to opt out on the day’s theme and went for the bigger-than-life with a story look. With a headdress of fanned peacock feathers atop her head and a matching hand fan, she told how she got the “hat” from a woman in the Amazon.
Patty Jo Turner and her gal squad of faux blondes (Terri Bumgarner, Kim Dale, Suzette Derrick, Nancy McLochlin and Susan Russell) took Dolly Parton’s wisdom to heart — “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.”
But it wasn’t a gals-only gathering. No, siree. There were gents dressed to the nines, tens and whatever. Coley Clark, Steve Ivy and Michael Jenkins were on the side of the Plaza watching the ladies champagne-ing their way around and walking the red carpet for judges Gary Riggs, Jane McGarry, Kathy Fielder, Karen Carroll, Robert LeLeux, Matthew Campbell Laurenza, Diane and Daryl Johnston and Andrea Alcorn, who was subbing for Janelle Friedman. The trio was a part of Connie Carreker’s “Southern Gentlemen” lineup of husbands in matching dark suits, white shirts, pocket squares, fedoras and ties who were there to support/escort their wives.
As usual Steve Kemble was a walking garden delight wearing a jacket of magnolia leaves with big, old magnolia epaulets and a towering hat of magnolias and leaves.
And speaking of hats, floral engineer Shane Walker managed to combine Aunt Fern’s creation featuring a giant armadillo appearing to be atop a red-velvet cake; the purse with a baby armadillo peeking out completed the ensemble.
Another head turner was a smiling Severt Philleo opting for the Shirley MacLaine look, complete in heels, blush pink skirt, print blouse, deep pink jacket, white gloves, black chapeau highlighted by a black tulle and deep pink flower and, of course, pearl necklace. And as any proper lady at an outdoor function would, she had additional accessories — a hand fan and sunglasses. Clairee would have been so proud! After all, “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.”
But time demanded that the hats and their underlings leave the sunshine for Rosine Hall and the Tootsies fashion show. With guests shifting in their chairs to see around the hats, the fedora-ed guys were seated on the front row and prepared to help anyone on stage managing the steps up and down from the floor. Emcee/KISS-FM 106.1’s Kellie Rasberry welcomed the group and introduced Renee, who thanked everyone for participating.
Then Mad Hatter’s Chair Jocelyn White welcomed all and told how this fundraiser was the one that had been on her bucket list and thanked individually her “dream team.” She also announced that specially made trays would be presented to the winners of the hat contest and key participants. When Joce tried to present a tray to buddy Linda Gray, the “Dallas” actress couldn’t be found. When someone said she was in the back of the room, the tray was handed to front-row guy Denny Carreker, who took it to the back of the room. Alas, he returned with tray in hand.
As for her friend/actress Janine Turner, Jocelyn provided her with a tray and a tiara. (“Steel Magnolia” trivia: Janine was in the movie and played Nancy Beth Marmillion, whose character was Miss Merry Christmas.)
With her specs in place, Jocelyn finished with a few words about her life as a true steel magnolia with grandparents who were called Big Mama and Big Daddy.
Next it was fashion showtime, produced by Jan Strimple with the finale complete with dialogue from the movie. It was followed by KLUV 98.7’s Jody Dean conducting the live auction. First up was a gold and lamb clutch in an open package valued at $3,100. As Jody held the gold purse over his head for all to see, it fell from the box to the floor of the stage. Following the laughter, Jody concluded the bidding and handed the errant bag to the top bidder, Sherwood, for a steal — $1,500.
The rest of the live auction went off without a hitch and was followed by the announcement of the hat contest winners.
- Most True-To-Theme – Barbara Daseke
- The Southern Belle — Carmen Surgent
- Simply Elegant — Patty Dedman Nail
- Mother Nature Winks — Kathy Cothrum
- The Social Sorority — Sherwood Wagner, Marena Gault and Marielle Gault
- Miss Merry Christmas — Jordi Bostock
- What Was She Thinking? — Barbara Bigham
- Best of Show/People’s Choice — Kunthear Mam Douglas
Then all adjourned to the pink-and-white clothed tables overlooking the Arboretum’s gardens to lunch and compare notes on who wore what and why.