When Melissa Lewis agreed to be president of the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum, she called Venise Stuart. Melissa would only take the leadership position, if Venise agreed to chair the 2018 Mad Hatter’s Tea.
After chairing the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League Deb ball, the Aware Affair and Les Femmes Du Monde’s Women of the Year, Venise was the right one to tap for the 30th anniversary of the annual tea that benefits the Council’s A Woman’s Garden.
At Tootsies on Thursday, November 16, Melissa and Venise had about 70 guests in for champagne and to learn about the plans for the spring fashion show.
Before the announcements were made, Venise said that she wanted the annual fashion show and luncheon to be an elegant affair along the lines of the grand days when the ultra-rich sought the cool breezes of Newport in the summer.
When the event was first launched in 1987, it was simply a seated tea with Virginia Nick, Margaret McDermott, Mary Nell Rogers, Barbara Lake and Carol Ann Brown on the terrace of the Camp House with a regatta sailing on White Rock in the background. As one person described it, “Nobody had ever done anything like that. It was like we were in a movie. They had just restored the Camp Estate. It was a simple but elegant affair. It was like Downton Abby. Nobody asked you for anything. It was just a beautiful afternoon.”
Over the years, change was afoot. It was held in different locations, designers like the late Frank Olive attended, fashion shows were added and the hat judgings. In recent years, the tea has settled into a champagne reception in Ginsburg Plaza and the fashion show and live auction in Rosine Hall followed by a seated luncheon on the terrace overlooking the grounds.
With the 70 guests including Emilynn Wilson, Linda and Steve Ivy, Dyann Skelton, Jocelyn White, Donna Darling, Claire Cunningham, Kay Weeks, Barbara Bingham and Tea founder Carol Ann Brown, the twosome announced that Linda Burk would be the honorary chair and that Tootsies under the leadership of Nerissa von Helpenstill and Dustin Holcomb would be providing the fashions with Jan Strimple producing the show on Thursday, April 12.
Then they unveiled the graphics designed by Lynn Dealey with the theme “A Garden By The Sea.”