Bright lights, big chapeaux
Dallas starlets tip their hats to Hollywood at Oscar-worthy Mad Hatter's Tea
Whimsical Dallasites got to live out their big-screen dreams at Mad Hatter's Tea 2019. Themed "The Golden Age of Hollywood," the 31st annual luncheon and fashion show on April 11 proved to be an Oscar-worthy affair.
Co-chairs Terry Irby and Sharla Bush and honorary chair Kristina Bush Whitcomb welcomed 500 guests to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden on a red carpet, of course. Among those posing for photos in their over-the-top chapeaux and fabulous fascinators were Donna Moss, Jennifer Stalkup, Adean Kingston, Dana Herberston, Gina Ginsburg, Kesha Couville, Kelley Gonzalez, Laura Freeman, Bethany Dow, Claire Gordon, Jessica Freeman, Carla Russo, Sharon Popham, Marena Gault, and Sherwood Wagner.
The most-photographed duo of the day was Shane Walker and Billy Fulmer, who went all-out as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, from hat to gloves. Also getting into character in a major way? Carmen Hancock, who embodied Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, complete with a hat full of Tiffany-blue bags and boxes and a high-tech movie screen playing the film.
While they mingled and shot selfies at the reception amid A Tasteful Place garden, guests sipped so much Moet & Chandon Champagne that, servers said, they ran out for the luncheon. Meanwhile, the hat competition judges had their work cut out for them. Putting pencil to paper to determine the coveted awards were Joani White, Vivian Lombardi, Jenna Jenovich, Vodi Cook, and fashion designer Jonathan Simkhai, whose designs would grace the runway later, too.
Inside Rosine Hall, emcee Joceyln White opened the festivities and championed the work of the Women's Council of the Dallas Arboretum, led by president Linda Spina. She encouraged attendees to visit the event's beneficiary, A Woman's Garden, to see its newest beautiful addition, the "Boxwood Niche."
This year's Tootsies fashion presentation, produced by Jan Strimple, showed looks that were both daytime chic and night-time glam. Guests could follow along on the handy printed "fashion menu" and circle the looks they loved. The show included designs by Lela Rose, Victoria Beckham, Versace, Emilio Pucci, BCBG, Ted Baker, Badgley Mischka, and of course, the featured designer of the day, Jonathan Simkhai, who was sitting in the front row.
Auctioneer Wendy Lambert got the crowd limber by first auctioning the Audrey Hepburn-style sunglasses she was wearing. Then bidding really heated up for fabulous prize packages. This year's big "gets" included a trip to Marfa; a Tootsies shopping package that included 20 percent off for a whole year; a luxury retreat at The Adolphus Hotel; a Dallas shopping excursion; and a pair of amethyst earrings from De Boulle. The earrings were modeled by special guest Kathy King, in town from Tucson, who donned a stunningly creative dress made entirely of 35-millimeter film.
Lambert then led the room in a "live give" initiative, allowing them to contribute amounts from $10,000 to $100. Paddles flew up around the room, and more than $16,000 was raised in a matter of minutes.
Then came the moment the room had been waiting for — the announcement of the hat contest winners, or, "the Academy Awards of millinery." Cheers and applause went up as the category nominees and winners' names were called. The prizes? Oscar statuettes topped with colorful hats, of course.
- Best Picture (most true to theme): Prashe
- Best Foreign Language Film (most dramatic): Kunthear Mam-Douglas
- Best Short Film (most beautiful fascinator): Norah Maroulis
- Best Actress in a Leading Role (people's choice award): Carmen Hancock
- Best Director (best themed group of hats): The Wizard of Oz group
- Best Art Direction (best botanical using fresh florals): Leslie Vaughan
- Best Costume Design (most elegant): Jenny Foster
- Best Visual Effects (most creative): Elizabeth Smith Theis
Guests held onto their hats as they headed back to the breezy outdoors and found their spots at tables under tents on the plaza. Elegant florals by Into the Garden filled each table with color.
Photo-taking paused just long enough for attendees to enjoy the luncheon of seasonal greens salad; pistachio bacon chicken salad; cucumber-boursin and dilly egg-salad tea sandwiches; and chocolate truffle tarts and petite fours with creme anglaise for dessert — all provided by Angela's Kitchen + Catering. Efficient servers never let wine glasses run dry.
Just like at the Oscars, some patrons were heading to after-parties at nearby hotels. Others made their final charitable contributions and checked out, but not before taking a stroll through the grounds of the garden, making a special stop at A Woman's Garden and looking forward to another applause-worthy luncheon in 2020.