Adventures in Time
Sky-high hats captivate crowd at 25th annual Mad Hatter's Tea
Attendees pulled out all the stops — or, shall we say, tops — for the 25th annual Mad Hatter’s Tea, themed “Adventures in Time,” at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Chic chapeaus of all shapes, sizes and themes never fail to dazzle at this boisterous benefit, which helps the arboretum’s Women’s Council fund the Woman’s Garden.
As we stepped into Ginsburg Plaza, we thought we had slipped into some kind of Alice and Wonderland dream. Tiered hats with all kinds of trinkets, toys, feathers and jewels nearly made us dizzy.
Each enormous head topper — it’s almost a misnomer to call it a “hat” — told a story, including Joani White’s award winner with miniature Titanic, hope diamond necklace and small Louis Vuitton trunk, which she carried in hand. D’Andra Simmons’ best in show boasted a mini Taj Mahal, elephants and bright orange flowers resting on a purple turban.
Steve Kemble’s giant three-tiered cake; Teffy Jacobs’ vibrant petal and arrow hat; and Faye Briggs’ cowboy hat, adorned with a Barbie and pink silk fabric, were also a trip.
We didn’t envy judges Lawrence Bock, Connie Dufner, Holly Forsythe, Julian Leaver, Daniel Winson Lewis, Paula Caldwell St-Onge, Amy Vanderoef and Anthony Wilkinson, who had their work cut out for them. Once the judges got a good look at the competitors, guests gathered in Rosine Hall for a fashion show produced by Jan Strimple, live auction, and award ceremony.
Emcee Ron Corning introduced Women’s Council president and “force of nature” Sue Ringle, who reminded devotees that the organization was on the verge of setting a record for net proceeds before encouraging them to bid in the auction. She also thanked co-chairs Maggie Kipp and Shay Geyer, who wore anniversary-themed hats: Kipp wore the No. 2, while Geyer sported No. 5.
When Corning returned to the microphone, he noticed Ringle has left her iPhone on the podium. “She has a passcode. That definitely means she’s been sexting,” he said. The crowd, already loose from the bubbly, burst out laughing. Even Ringle and honorary chair Patty Dedman Nail couldn’t help but giggle.
Corning bestowed a special gift unto last year’s co-chair, Carmaleta Whiteley, whom Kipp and Geyer call “fairy godmother.”
“Lord knows you have a lot of fairies in your life, and now you have a wand to go along with them,” Corning said. Whiteley waved her blinged-out wand at the crowd before the fashion show began.
After eyeing bright spring looks from Cavalli and Oscar de la Renta, ladies bid on live auction items, including a party in the Woman’s Garden and a necklace by Shona Gilbert. Then the moment they had all been waiting for arrived, when the judges announced the winners:
- Gents Top Hats: Timeless, Billy Fulmer
- Most True to Theme: Back to the Future, Joani White
- Botanical: Adam and Eve, Terry Irby
- Most Whimsical: Roaring Twenties, Yvonne Crum
- Most Elegant: Court of Versailles, Elizabeth Mendez
- Best of Show: 25th Anniversary, D’Andra Simmons
- Most Outlandish: Wild, Wild West, Nancy Brite Smith
- Group (for the first time ever, a tie): Hollywood Glamour and Record in Time
The award winners flocked to the stage to show off their over-the-top designs. Then, finally, an elegant lunch followed in the outdoor plaza — which served primarily to soak up all the champagne that had been flowing freely.