When I received an email about a month ago inviting me to participate as a model in a fashion show, I actually laughed. There is no way I’m going to wear fancy clothes and model them in front of a bunch of women I don’t know, I thought. But then I received a second email from my coworker Jennifer Connor, our community engagement editor. “Do it with me!” she said. “It will be fun!” she said.
I couldn’t leave her on the runway all alone, so I reluctantly agreed to participate. After all, the fashion show is for a great cause — it’s a fundraiser for Laurel House, a local organization that helps victims of domestic abuse.
My modeling experience started Wednesday, three days before the actual event. I went for a fitting at the Family Heritage Gift Shop, a boutique specializing in women’s clothing and accessories. The Franconia store is owned by Sheryl Derstine, who also owns a similar store, Shekala’s, located in the Telford train station. All of the fashion show models would be wearing outfits handpicked by Derstine from her stock.
Although Derstine has participated in a number of fashion shows, this is the first time she’s ever worked with Laurel House.
“I love doing fashion shows,” she said. “It gives us the opportunity to show our clothing to women we never would have seen.”
Derstine and longtime employee Jane Pritts worked together to find me three different outfits for the show. The first outfit was supposed to be dressy; after trying on a few dresses, they were able to find me a black one with ruffles that actually looked like something I would pick out on my own. They added some sparkle with a necklace and matching earrings, as well as a handbag and a beaded shawl.
The next outfit was a casual one: white pants with a brightly colored blouse. The third and final outfit was meant to showcase the store’s wide range of accessories: Derstine and Pritts put me in a taupe blouse with a necklace, earrings, a scarf and a purse.
After leaving Family Heritage Gift Shop, I had a few days to get nervous about modeling the outfits in front of a crowd. I showed up at the Franconia Heritage Restaurant, the site of the luncheon, around 10 a.m. on Saturday with a few butterflies in my stomach.
Three hair stylists from Mira Salon in Skippack were donating their time to do our hair. Although my normal lifestyle doesn’t include a personal hair stylist, it was nice to get pampered in a way that I assume real models do. My hair was styled into an updo that made me feel like I was going to prom.
It took a little more than an hour for all of the models to get their hair done. Next, Derstine showed us our runway and we practiced walking on it. I was surprised to see that it was quite a few inches off the ground, meaning I’d have to take a big step up – in heels. (If anyone were going to fall in front of a crowd, it would be me.) Luckily, I made it through the quick rehearsal without even a stumble.
Women began arriving for the luncheon, which had a travel theme; Kathy DeHaven, the event’s planner, runs a travel agency. Each table was given a travel destination rather a number — Jennifer and I sat at the London table — and there were travel posters hung on the walls.
“This is the first time I’ve done anything like this,” DeHaven said of the event. The hardest part for her was keeping all of the details straight, although she managed to make it work by using various Excel spreadsheets. There were 84 guests at the event, a number she was happy with. “With it being a first-time event, that was kind of my goal,” she said.
Before lunch was served, guests were invited to socialize and purchase raffle tickets. There were a dozen different raffle items donated by local businesses, DeHaven said. Some of the more popular gifts were a coupon for a manicure and pedicure, a tote bag that contained a $50 Visa gift card and a basket filled with Wawa coffee.
The models joined the guests for lunch, although we had to leave right as dessert was being served to change into our outfits. I was a little nervous stepping out onto the runway for the first time, but the crowd was extremely supportive. I could see people taking pictures of the outfits I was wearing because they wanted to buy something similar. Each time I walked in a new outfit, I became a little more confident, and by the last outfit I was even enjoying myself.
The guests enjoyed themselves, too. “It was so much fun,” said Beth Sturman, the executive director of Laurel House. “It really brought people together.”
Although some of my fellow models were women that had worked with Laurel House in the past, others were not as familiar with the organization. Kimberly Cramsey, who works at Fulton Bank, learned about Laurel House at a recent PennSuburban Chamber of Commerce event. That’s part of Laurel House’s mission, Sturman said; making people aware of resources for domestic violence victims is just as important as raising money for those victims. Bringing community members together for a fun event like a fashion show is a great way to bring awareness in a non-threatening way, she said. Domestic violence affects everyone, so it’s likely that many of the luncheon guests have a friend or a relative or a neighbor who is a victim, she said.
Both Sturman and DeHaven said they’d like the fashion show to become an annual event. Although I’m pretty sure the event didn’t launch my modeling career, I had a great time participating. When they hold the event next year, maybe I’ll even be the one dragging a friend to join me on the runway.