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Historical Museum and Village tips hat to iconic island women with annual fundraiser

By Staff | Feb 2, 2011

Wanda Malone, as Laetitia Nutt wears a brown dress from 1895-1910, while Mary Buck wears a 1960s sequined Bob Mackie gown. Both Malone and Buck will portray iconic island woman from history during the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village’s Les Chapeux fundraiser, fashion gala, auction and luncheon on Feb. 15 at the Sanctuary Golf Club. The fashion show will feature both contemporary and vintage clothing dating as far back as the late 19th century.

Whether a pill box or beret, turban or bonnet — whether wide-brimmed and floppy, or dainty and small — supporters of the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village will pay homage to hats during the organization’s annual fundraiser on Tuesday, Feb. 15 at the Sanctuary Golf Club.

The “Les Chapeux” fundraiser will also be an opportunity for the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village to acknowledge and celebrate some of the islands’ most well-known and highly-respected female settlers, pioneers and residents.

“The goal is really to celebrate all of these important island women. You’ll get to learn more about them and see what they might have worn in their day. We’ll have several little surprises along the way and it’s really going to be lovely. It’s just a fun time for a good cause,” said Les Chapeux chairwoman Nancy McNeill.

Les Chapeux will begin at 11:15 a.m. with a silent auction including items such as artwork, vacation stays, gift certificates, a champagne luncheon from Sips and more. Lunch will be served at noon, followed by the live auction.

“For the live auction, we’re going to have a $2,500 gift certificate from Congress Jewelers, a beautiful shell mirror made by Marianne Jardine and luncheon with Francis Bailey for seven people at Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room at the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village — just to name a few,” McNeill said.

Wanda Malone as Ellie Dormer, circa 1960.

Following the auction, the highly anticipated Fashion Gala runway show will begin, featuring vintage and contemporary designs — and plenty of hats!

The vintage designs and accessories were loaned to the Museum and Village for the event from various private collections. Contemporary fashions will be provided by Chico’s, Eileen Fisher Boutique, Fresh Produce, Her Sports Closet, Island Girl Boutique and the Shops at ‘Tween Waters Inn.

All the proceeds from the silent and live auctions will go to the Historical Museum and Village for future expansion and development.

“In the last few years, we’ve really been trying to raise awareness and the visibility of the Village and Museum and we had over 8,000 visitors to the Village last year,” McNeill said, noting that one of the Museum’s most recent additions, audio recordings for various exhibits, was made possible in part by funds raised through the annual event.

“People are fascinated by the history of the islands, and the mission of the Museum and Village is to preserve that history — once you lose it, it’s gone,” McNeill said. “Learning the history of these islands enriches the visitors’ experience and all of our Museum docents are wonderful — they love history. And, just like Myra Roberts, they love sharing it with people.”

A limited edition giclee print of Myra Roberts’ “The Collector,” will be auctioned off during the event. The piece features island pioneer Alice O’Brien.

Island artist Myra Roberts is known for her colorful, vintage-inspired portraits of iconic island women — everyone from Esperanza Woodring to Laetitia Nutt, Marie Barnes and Dorthy Stearns (also known as Gramma Dot).

“Another important character from island history was a woman named Alice O’Brien — a very important person in terms of being an environmental visionary with very early involvement in conservation efforts,” Roberts said.

During the Les Chapeux live auction, Roberts will sell a limited edition giclee of her piece, “The Collector,” featuring island pioneer Alice O’Brien.

Roberts will also have a display of original artwork — featuring historical island women, almost all of which are wearing hats, of course — at the Bank of the Islands leading up to the date of the fundraiser. The exhibit will then adorn the halls of The Sanctuary for the event. A portion of the proceeds from artworks sold during the exhibit will be donated to the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village.

Roberts said that after she was approached by the Museum and Village to participate in the event, she marveled at the many similarities her artwork shared with the Museum and Village’s fundraiser theme.

Roberts’ portrait of Dorthy Stearns — also known as Gramma Dot.

“I love painting hats. I’ve studied and collected every type of vintage art, especially advertisements and old magazines from the 1920s and 1930s, and I’ve always been attracted to the fashion of that era,” Roberts said. “That was a time where women rarely went outside without a hat. I love the charm of hats. They’re an art expressions in themselves — kind of like mini-sculptures you can wear.”

But an affinity for hats isn’t the only thing Roberts has in common with the Historical Museum and Village.

“The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village and I have a great similarity in our goals, in that, they preserve history through the Museum, through all these wonderful buildings, and I’m preserving the past through my art and the people in my paintings. I always go back to island history for inspiration.” Roberts said.

Only 202 tickets, priced at $75 each, will be available for this event. To purchase tickets, call Elise Hall at 472-6854. Attendants are encouraged, but not required to wear a hat.

Event sponsors include Master Sponsor Bailey’s General Store, Gold Sponsors Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar and Grille, The Sanctuary Golf Club and The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company, Silver Sponsors Bank of the Islands, Barrier Island Title Services, Inc. and Sanibel Captiva Community Bank and Merchant Sponsor Allegra Design, Marketing and Print.

Mary Buck in a pink ensemble, 1946-1959.

For more information about the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village, go to