DALLAS — Minimalism be damned. Partygoers at the annual Sweetheart Ball here donned poufy ball gowns and poured on the jewels to raise money for heart research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

“You look like a million dollars, and that’s what that dress probably cost!” joked ball chairman Nancy Halbreich to her friend, Jacque Wynne.

Wynne, who was wearing a puff of layers of ruffled white organza by Zandra Rhodes, explained, “Zandra and I got together last October to design this thing. I don’t dress up anymore because I’m in Aspen half the time. Now I buy cowboy boots!”

Wynne asked Rhodes to stitch roses to the neckline of her gown and finished the look with a pearl necklace, earrings, ring and a pavÄ diamond watch. Lots of others also dressed up their eveningwear with sizable pearl necklaces, plus an occasional feather boa.

If the elaborate fashion scene wasn’t enough to entertain the 300 guests, the ballroom at the Brook Hollow Golf Club was a lush floral banquet designed to look like the Italian countryside (at sunset, no less).

Columns, Renaissance-style statues, citrus trees, blooming vines and a profusion of flowers enveloped both ends of the room. Even the pergola sheltering the band was dripping with bougainvillea, and each table bore a centerpiece of blooming pastel roses plus a miniature vegetable garden nestled into a terra-cotta pot.

Twenty-five violinists serenaded guests as they strolled toward a lobster and veal dinner topped off by a chocolate and caramel dessert. Tiffany & Co. rewarded Sweethearts (70 donors of $2,000 or more) with sterling beakers designed exclusively for the ball. All told, Halbreich expected the fund-raising effort to net a whopping, record-breaking $500,000 to $600,000.

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