Hats off to hospital fundraisers

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Leading ladies and gentleman (left to right): Jane Conlin, Martin Grenfell, Gemma Lister, Yvonne Lacey, "George" Stephenson and, behind, compere Lesley Farrow

As five of Rye’s most glamorous residents sashayed up and down the central aisle, it was standing room only at the fashion show at the town hall on Wednesday evening (October 22). More than 100 people squeezed in to watch the second show by Niche in aid of Rye, Winchelsea and District Memorial Hospital.

The clothes, all available at Niche, told a wintry tale and began with the essential outer layer: a coat. By the end of the evening we were into luxurious evening wear, having seen dresses, tops, jackets, trousers – plus all the accessories.

For the model ladies – Jane Conlin, Gemma Lister, “George” Stephenson and Yvonne Lacey – it must have felt like Paris/London/New York/Milan. They’d had only one fitting – and at the last minute had an extra outfit thrown at them. On with one outfit, down the catwalk, graceful turn, pause, back again, repeat, shrug off outer layer, up and down again, smiling all the while, applause. Turn, dash down the stairs, round the back, up other stairs, through the mayor’s chamber, whisk off that outfit and swiftly into the next.

They had a break only when Tracey Mogard, milliner and owner of Herald and Heart, and milliner Sophie Desai displayed a “dabble” of their bespoke handmade hats, modelled with a confident swagger by Lynda Treliving. Vibrant colours, arresting shapes and intricate details drew spontaneous applause – and one hat would not be for sale as Lynda had already bagged it.

Applause greeted the fifth model before he had even made his entrance: Martin Grenfell – dashing, cavalier – in ensembles from WJ Bennet. His deft unbuttoning and casual flick of the jacket to reveal the lining showed he must have been practising – but he did forget his bag!

The models all strutted their stuff – Yvonne (80, yes, 80) had clearly done this before – but they had no hesitation in having a quick aside with friends in the front row, they let people feel fabrics, dropped their coats into a convenient lap, demonstrated the comfort of an elasticated waist (ping!) and embraced Martin as their paths crossed.

The finale was by Mayor Bernadine Fiddimore, who wore a very practical red and black ensemble but almost got tangled in her chain of office while trying nonchalantly to shrug off the little jacket.

There were lots of people to thank at the end, not forgetting the organisers from The Friends:

  • Niche (54 Cinque Ports Street), who dreamt up the fashion show and who dressed the ladies from top to toe. Owner Lesley Farrow acted as compere, describing everything in detail and dispensing advice: “Never buy anything you will not wear.” Any Niche customer seen dithering is advised to go away and think about it. All items are at the shop and the prices, like the clothes, range from practical to luxurious: for example, dresses from £55 up to £175 – and the ski pants that featured more than once, £99
  • Herald and Heart (102 High Street), for all the hats
  • Rye Retreat (36-38 Cinque Ports Street), particularly Chloe and Victoria who coiffed and buffed the models
  • WJ Bennett (99 High Street) for suave suiting and booting
  • Generous local businesses who donated prizes to the raffle and auction
  • Finally, Peter Farrow jeweller (54 Cinque Ports Street), who not only provided the final flourish with unusual and often chunky silver jewellery and some fabulous pearls, but also donated the fizz that greeted guests on arrival and did all the heavy lifting and carrying needed to get the show on the road

And it was most certainly worth it: £1,500 to the hospital, up from £1,165 last year.

Photos: Tony and Jane Nunn