Majestic Mad Hatter's takes English garden-party elegance to new heights in Dallas
The big Coronation may be a few days and an ocean away, but Dallas style queens donned their own crowns for a decidedly regal35th Mad Hatter's Luncheon on April 20 at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
With the theme "Majestic Mad Hatters - A Celebration of English Elegance," co-chairs Anne Stodghill and Kristina Wrenn, along with honorary chair Kim Hext, had hoped to set a dignified tone for the event. "We pay homage to the late Queen Elizabeth II with her sense of style, love of hats, and indominable spirit," they wrote in the program.
Many of the 650 attendees boasted grand and graceful millinery that any British garden party baroness might envy. The younger set went with darling little fascinators propped daintily on their 'dos.
But this was, after all, Mad Hatter's, an event with a reputation for glue-gun gloriousness and sky-high kitschy splendor.
Were there tea party sets teetering precariously over heads? Of course. Castles, crowns, and Queen dolls embellishing chapeaus, and entire English gardens flowing down from them? Yep. (Scroll through the photos above to see these creations and more.)
The highlight of Mad Hatter's each year is the hat competition, adjudicated by celebrity judges who pick winners in several cleverly named categories. This year's judges and winners were:
Ryan Ross, president of Neiman Marcus, presented "The Princess of Wales: Best Overall Ensemble" award to Yvonne Evans.
Nathan Johnson, creative director of Gro Floral and Event Design, presented "The Chelsea Flower Show: Most Creative use of Fresh Botanicals" award to Kristi Boylan.
Cassie MacGregor, accomplished milliner, presented "The Queen’s Choice: Most True to Theme" to Sarah Jo Hardin.
Barbara Bigham, founding member of the WCDABG and Past Mad Hatter’s Chair, presented "The Hybrid: Best English Garden Hat with a Texas Twist" to Claire Catrino (who revealed that the feathers in her hat were from a "fresh kill" on her Texas ranch).
David Yarrow, celebrated UK fine art photographer, presented "The Head Turner: Best in Show" award to Megan Clark.
Emberli Pridham, author of a recently published children's book about Princess Diana, presented "A True Princess Diana: Sure to be a lasting Fashion Legend" award to Kathy King (who fiercely wore Princess Di's famous little black "revenge dress," pearl necklace, and bracelet).
Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia, fashion designers and artisans, presented "The Royal Enclosure: Group that could attend Ascot Together" to the High Tea Group.
People’s Choice award went to Elizabeth Smith (who carried a stuffed corgi doll along with her floral crown).
And a special, Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Barbara Bigham to Kunthear Mam-Douglas, a golden lady, from head to toe.
In a format departure, this year's luncheon divided the group between the larger Rosine Hall and the smaller pavilion at A Tasteful Place. Awards presentations were given in both venues, and attendees could enjoy their British-inspired lunch of Coronation chicken salad, traditional scones, berries, and English rolled brandy snaps in plenty of air-conditioning (blessedly) instead of outdoors, under tents.
Another big change from years past was the inclusion of a post-luncheon keynote address rather than a fashion show. Renowned designer Michael Faircloth took to the podium to talk about "The History, The Humor, and The Hope of the Hat."
One thing that didn't change? The champagne that flowed throughout the reception in the garden. Flutes in hand, guests posed for photos, browsed silent auction items, and purchased special Lady Primrose candles - all to help raise funds for A Woman's Garden at The Dallas Arboretum.
It was a windy day, but patrons deftly held onto their hats with one hand and sipped sparkling wine with the other. The Queen - who was said to enjoy a glass of bedtime bubbly every night - would have been proud of this Dallas crowd, indeed.