In fictional Chinquapin, Louisiana, a wedding is about to take place. The bride is Shelby (Julia Roberts), a headstrong young beauty whose iron-willed mother, M'Lynn (Sally Field), would do anything for her. Giant-haired Dolly Parton is Truvy, the owner of the beauty parlor that serves as the town's unofficial hub. Dropping in to exchange gossip are Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine), the richest and meanest woman in town, and Clairee (Olympia Dukakis), an elegant widow with a sly delivery. The atmosphere is further enlivened by the wacky new girl, Annelle (Daryl Hannah), a gawky trainee with cat-woman glasses and a mysterious past. These six "steel magnolias" huddle together and provide each other with strength, friendship and an audience for each other's jokes as they negotiate the ups and downs of life and love in a small Southern town.