Order of Hibernians finds fashion is just its cup of tea


January 14, 2002|By Kimbra Cutlip | Kimbra Cutlip,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MIDDAY TEA parties are a tradition from across the Atlantic that have become nearly synonymous with ladies' clubs throughout America. A local Irish Catholic ladies' group infused a little of the European heritage back into the affair in planning the first of what they hope will become an annual Irish tea and fashion show.

The Annapolis division of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians event yesterday at the historic Calvert House on State Circle featured the stuff of teas -- scones and shortbread, wine, sherry and, of course, tea. But the planned entertainment featured Hibernians modeling fashions from the city's Irish clothing boutique, Avoca.

"We were just sitting there having a cup of tea one day and talking about ideas for a fund-raiser," said Hibernians secretary Helen Buckley of Annapolis, "and we thought of an Irish tea and fashion show." According to Buckley, the Baltimore division had the idea first and had been putting on successful fashion show tea parties for years. But they discontinued the event in favor of one that would be appealing to men as well as women.

So the Annapolis division decided to give it a try. "Some of the ladies modeling at our tea have been in the other fashion show up in Baltimore, and they usually do very well and look very good," Buckley said.

The models were pulled from the ranks of the Hibernians, which encompasses the men's Ancient Order of Hibernians and the women's group. The men's group is a national fraternal organization established to support the mission of the Irish Catholic Church and to preserve and foster Irish cultural heritage in America.

The women's group was established for the wives and daughters of Hibernians and for other Irish Catholic women, and has the same mission. "We have 45 members in the Annapolis division," said the division President Anette Hoagan of Annapolis.

"Our organization does a lot of charity functions for St. Mary's Church in Annapolis," Hoagan said. "We have religious goods sales, and we put on an Irish ceili once a year in February. It's Irish dancing. We have someone come in and teach Irish dancing to participants."

The organization also recently began a junior division for girls ages 6 to 16. "It's not quite a year old," Buckley said, "We've got 12 juniors now, and it's off to a good start." In addition to helping with charity events, Buckley said the juniors will learn Irish step dancing. Buckley and Hoagan said some of the girls were excited about the fashion show and tea.

Avoca manager Joanie Martin spent much of last week outfitting the models for nearly 40 different ensembles. For the men, there were sweaters, tweed jackets, Celtic ties and waterproof "waxed" woven jackets. The women swept across the floor in suits, sweaters, capes, and serapes.

Martin took her job seriously as the show's fashion coordinator, meeting several times last week with members and fitting styles to the men, women, and girls who modeled them.

Her store specializes in clothing of natural fibers such as wool and linen. "Ninety-eight percent of it comes from Ireland," Martin said. "We have seven stores in Ireland, all along the coast, and this is our only one in the U.S." Martin came to the United States from Ireland two years ago to manage the Avoca's Annapolis store.

The clothes on display were not for sale at the show, but Martin hopes it provided a little advertising for her store. The money the Hibernians collected at their Irish tea and fashion show came from entry ticket sales. They also raffled an Irish tea basket, an Irish doll, and lunches at local restaurants. Proceeds will benefit charities supported by the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians.

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