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Fashion Forward

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When Pat Kerr Tigrett paid her good-bye visit to New York's Plaza Hotel, she was sentimental and a little sad. Her bridal couture gowns are part of the hotel's legacy, featured on the book cover of A Plaza Wedding and renowned worldwide for their originality, romance, and antique lace.

But Tigrett didn't waste too much time on memories. She rallied instead, combing through the hotel's leftover treasures and purchasing a set of luxurious sheets.

The linens are now part of her Plaza Hotel Tribute Wedding Gown, introduced last Saturday at Pat Kerr's 25th Anniversary Fashion Show & Retrospective. (Yes, I know, the gossamer tulle, hand-painted front panel, and satin-edged ribbon streamers really make the gown sing, but I just love the sheet story.)

The whimsy of Tigrett's Plaza inspiration comes as no surprise to me, a longtime fan of her talent and her Memphis fund-raisers. But my 14-year-old daughter, Anna, hasn't been to a Tigrett event since her first (and last) Jingle Bell Ball in the second grade. So we anticipate the evening together, interpreting the invitation's black tie optional/cocktail glam in our own ways. (I wear a rose print Laura Ashley with black crinoline from 1990; Anna combines a camouflage jacket, red bandana, and her latest thrift-store find: a punk prom dress with layers of sequined netting.)

Excited in our party clothes, we head downtown for the Cannon Center, where Tigrett's friends in film, music, politics, and fashion gather to support her favorite charities. Once inside, servers offer champagne. Hundreds of red-ribbon streamers hang from the ceiling, knotted at the end with a single red rose. (How does Tigrett think of these things?) Elegantly attired participants (too much black, not enough glam) admire the display of wedding gowns inspired by legendary brides such as Queen Victoria, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Princess Diana. Nearby, a news photographer knocks over a tray of almost-empty glasses but the champagne, luckily, misses my dress.

Inside the concert hall the evening's main attraction gets started. First, a quick PowerPoint on Tigrett's career (she's shown chatting with Joan Rivers, Jane Pauley, Larry King, and Oprah) and then finally, the dresses themselves, introduced by ballerinas twirling in a sea of dry ice. (No kidding. And later in the show, the dancers carry Gibson guitars to complement Tigrett's new prom line, described by Anna as "hard-core fabulous.") One after another, the gowns keep coming, a wedding wonderland of satin, feathers, paillettes, silk crepe, and lace from Brussels, modeled by toddlers, teens (first-timer Claire Nelson is a real knockout with her magnificent red hair), and beautiful women of all ages ("I just like watching the models," says my husband, Tony).

Unfortunately, honorary committee chairman Martha Stewart doesn't show up. But we leave happy anyway with a new family adage that Tigrett (the lace lady) already knows: When it comes to weddings, it's all about the dress.

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