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Designer Deals Draw Big Bucks from the River Oaks Set

On Tuesday, everything came together to give Houston’s ladies-who-lunch the ultimate afternoon: fashion, philanthropy, and a very good salad at River Oaks Country Club.

“I keep discovering new things!” one of my table-mates gushed over the light entreé, which was indeed layered with surprises—a near countless variety of greens, roasted butternut squash, dried cranberries, apple cider-glazed chicken, feta, pumpkin se, even—is that? Could it be? Yes, yes it is—diced green apple.

But you’re not here for the salad. And, truthfully, neither were we. “Reflections on Style,” the annual luncheon and fashion show benefiting the Salvation Army Women‘s Auxiliary, regularly sells out in a hot minute, and this year was no different—it took precisely 10 for all 450-some seats to be claimed. Tickets, plus silent auction items and before-and-after-lunch sales from the pop-up shop hauled over from the Chic Boutique showroom (more on that later), raised more than $650,000 for SAWA, which sponsors a bevy of community initiatives for the less fortunate around Houston.

The theme, “Prancing With a Purpose,” was particularly fitting for this year’s honoree, Judi McGee, an avid equestrian and former SAWA president lauded for her many charitable endeavors and years of service to the Salvation Army. Decked out in their springtime best—florals and pastel sets abounded—the debonaire crowd heard remarks from a verklempt McGee and from SAWA president Gina Saour, event chair Darlene Clark, and an invocation from associate area commander Major Melody Davis.

Next came the well-executed fashion show by Lenny Matuszewski and Tamara Klosz Bonar, 11 scenes of luxe looks pulled straight from the racks of the Chic Boutique, SAWA’s annual four-day pop-up shop that’s essentially the fanciest garage sale in town.

We’ve told you about the shop, which runs through April 20 in the showroom at 1131-08 Uptown Park Blvd. and is chock-full of unthinkably low-priced designer goods including gowns, bags, shoes, and more donated by some of Houston’s finest fashionistas and philanthropists. Chic Boutique co-chairs Leigh Newton Alvarez and Lynn Clayton spent an entire year sourcing the treasures, and models showed the best of the best on Tuesday’s runway.

There was Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Prada, Valentino, and more. Guests oohed and aahed at the sights debuted beneath the Country Club’s grand chandeliers—a gold tulle gown from Oscar de la Renta, a Dolce Gabbana patent leopard trench coat, black sequin pants from Alice and Olivia. The fact that all these high-end pieces would soon be up for grabs at a fraction of retail price made the show that much more exciting.

While the crowd would have to wait a bit longer to get their hands on those goods, some came to lunch with shopping bags in-tow—other “gold” selections from the Chic Boutique were brought to ROCC specifically for the event, and the pop-up opened for early shopping at 9:30 a.m. Lines snaked around the club as women seized onto $150 Louboutins and $200 Chanel blazers. “I had to get two pairs of shoes,” confessed the same table-mate impressed with the salad after informing us she was trying to implement a budget. We advised that budget should only apply to full-priced items. This was for charity, remember.

After lunch, the pop-up reopened—this by design, as another table-mate clued us in to the sheer melee of previous years when the shop stayed open through the meal, during which you’d catch glimpses of deal-hungry Houstonians sneaking away from their tables and practically bum-rushing the racks as they were wheeled from backstage.

This was a more dignified affair—it being River Oaks Country Club and all—with the Harbor Light Choir serenading guests as hundr edged their way into the crowded ballroom. While we can confidently say most if not all of the gems displayed at Tuesday’s show are now spoken for, you have until 3 p.m. this Saturday to claim your own in Uptown Park. And, if you find something you like only to have it snatched away by someone just quicker than you? There’s always hope it’ll reappear next year when the next set of fashionable philanthropists Marie Kondo their closets for the cause.

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