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July 2006

Modesty is fashionable

Doreen Beagan
The Interim

It was a fashion show with a difference – the 50 models walking the catwalk showed only “pure fashions.”

It was P.E.I.’s second such show, a mother-developed initiative that promotes modest attire for teen and pre-teen girls, held on May 28 at UPEI.

Pure Fashion began in 1999 in Atlanta, when some mothers expressed concern that the fashion world, TV shows and movies were depicting purity and modesty as naÔve and unsophisticated, while presenting risquÈ, sexy fashions and immorality in general as cool and desirable.

To encourage the girls to not just follow the fashions, but to set better ones, the mothers began to hold small alternative fashion shows promoting trendy, tasteful, modest clothing.

The concept was warmly received by many, explained Anne Marie Valois, the Charlottetown emcee. It continues to grow. Organizers’ kits are now available and there is talk of franchising a line of Pure Fashion designs.

“But we discovered that we have to sensitize the girls’ eyes and minds, so they can recognize the difference between modest and immodest fashions,” says Gwen Chevarie, co-ordinator of the Charlottetown show.

In preparatory sessions, they learn about modesty, purity, chastity and developing a positive body image. They also receive fashion tips and practise modelling.

Each girl shops with her mother for an ensemble to wear in the show. There are guidelines: not too low, not too short, not too sheer – standards the parent-organizers hope the girls will make their own.

“We told them: ‘Remember that you are a precious child of God, unique, gifted, talented. You are the daughter of a King. Dress appropriately,’” explains Valois.

They did. Their choices ranged from school clothes to Sunday best, from sports attire to breathtaking prom dresses.

They achieved dramatic effects with trendy colours and accessories, not plunging necklines, bare midriffs and thongs. In contrast to the sultry, sullen or provocative mien of professional models, the smiles in this event were clear, open, joyful and contagious.

It was a family event. Mothers modelled costumes of bygone days, including an elegant gown worn to President Nixon’s inaugural ball. Teens and their little sisters walked down the runway, sometimes hand in hand, strengthening and reinforcing each other. Some of the tiniest girls present climbed onto the catwalk during the intermission to imitate their older sisters.

The obvious pride in the faces of the men in the audience testified to their admiration for their wives and daughters. One even confided, “I helped my daughter pick her outfit.”

“Beauty doesn’t depend on baring everything,” Grade 12 participant Lydia Hood points out. “Girls who choose to not go that route are role models, making it easier for themselves and their friends to live a life of personal virtue.”

Chevarie says another goal is to help girls develop confidence, self–esteem and leadership ability. It seems to be happening. Just a few days after the Fashion Show, Lydia Hood represented P.E.I. youth at a Development and Peace conference in Toronto.

Although Pure Fashion is a spinoff from the Catholic international movement Regnum Christi, girls from other faiths are getting involved. “This year, a third of our participants were from other denominations,” notes Chevarie.

American leader Brenda Sharman, a former Miss Georgia, sees that as a good thing.

“Satan has been alive and well in the fashion industry. It’s going to take all of us Christians uniting to fight this battle,” she says. This year, Pure Fashion shows were held in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Halifax, and Charlottetown.

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