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VillageCare's Headdress Affair Showers Flowers

Renata Espinosa
May 21st, 2010 @ 5:42 PM - New York

Fashion and floral’s finest joined forces on Thursday night, May 20, for the ninth year in a row at Tulip and Pansies: The Headdress Affair, an annual benefit for VillageCare, a non-profit in New York that provides healthcare for people living with HIV/AIDS.

“There are so many people having a really hard time and so few organizations that can directly affect their lives on a daily basis. [VillageCare] is a direct-to-client model,” said Kelly Cutrone, who co-chaired the event with Ariana Rockefeller. Cutrone owns PR firm People’s Revolution and is the star of her own reality show on Bravo, “Kell on Earth.”

“It’s big, and it’s campy and it’s fun,” said James Aguiar, the evening’s charismatic master of ceremonies. “It’s the best of what fashion is. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and people are here to have a great time. Of course it’s for a good cause, but all the jaded front row stuff is gone.”

Designers such as Tracy Reese, Betsey Johnson and The Blonds joined newcomers to the event like DKNY and House of Holland in pairing their vibrantly colored dresses with some truly outrageous headdresses painstakingly made out of hundreds of dollars worth of flowers, from orchids to peonies to roses.

The floral couture was shown on a runway with models that ranged from the drag queens of The Imperial Court of New York to legendary model Pat Cleveland, who stole the show with her theatrical sashay down the runway.

Tara McInerney of Morningside Greenhouse in Haledon, New Jersey, designed a show-stopping, over-the-top look that took home the “Most Original” award that evening, doled out by judges Kelly Killoren Bensimon, Fern Mallis, John Bartlett, Freddie Leiba and Ashleigh Verrier.

Inspired by Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Cheshire Cat in the latest version of “Alice in Wonderland,” McInerney's model, Jack, wore an enormous hat covered in orchids, peonies, roses and leaves outlined in glitter that took a day and a half to create – including a labor-intensive application of 5,000 individual pussy willow buds and 33 yards of rhinestones in a pinstripe pattern on his jacket.

“I have no more fingerprints!” laughed McInerney. She estimated that the hat weighed more than 10 pounds.

“You gotta have a really strong neck, and take a couple of aspirin before you put it on for a while,” she said.

You also have to be willing to part with hundreds of dollars worth of flowers, like the $1800 worth of white orchids that Michael Gaffney of The New York School of Flower Design used for his Gatsby-inspired headdress for b. Michael, a glamorous “Phyllis Diller meets Diana Ross meets Cher,” look. What did he plan on doing with the flowers once the show was over? He would give them away.

“It’s flower power,” he said. “I try to brighten up someone’s day. We always try to find a home. It’s like puppies.”

Bingo Wyer from Cote Fleurie Studio, on the other hand, felt some regret about stringing up chains of hyacinths into dangling garlands on her Jackie Kennedy and Lady Gaga-inspired look to pair with a preppy Lilly Pullitzer bubble dress.

“Philosophically, it kills me,” she said. “They’ve been good! They don’t deserve this!”

Luckily, the demise of the flowers had a higher purpose – to help the HIV/AIDs patients of VillageCare.

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