KALIDA—Twenty-nine teenage girls recently took to the runway to model their belief that one doesn’t have to sacrifice modesty for fashion.
The Putnam County Pure Fashion Show they put on Aug. 30 at the University of Northwestern Ohio Event Center in Lima drew a crowd of more than 300 people and was the culmination of an eight-month, faith-based model training program promoting virtues of modesty and purity.
Plunging necklines, bare shoulders, skin-tight pants and short skirts are just some of the styles the girls had to avoid in selecting their attire for the fashion show, which featured six themed sets of back to school, sporty, homecoming, bridal, black and white, and Sunday best outfits.
“It was a little hard looking for clothes to meet all the guidelines,” admitted Shelby Otto, 17, a member of Glandorf St. John. “It’s hard to find dresses that aren’t low-cut.”
The senior from Ottawa-Glandorf High School opted to accent the spaghetti-strap dress she picked out for the homecoming set with a shawl. For the “black and white” set, she settled on a white T-shirt and black Bermuda shorts.
“It’s pretty casual and any girl could wear it,” said Shelby.
“Like the slogan says, we’re trying to change the culture one outfit at a time — trying to help the girls make good choices and trying to help them influence their friends,” said Susan Meyer, a member of Kalida St. Michael who co-chairs Putnam County Pure Fashion with two members of Glandorf St. John, Connie Cassidy and Julie Pothast.
Pure Fashion has spread to cities around the country and the world since it started in 1999 as an offshoot of Challenge, a Catholic girls club. Regnum Christi, a Catholic ecclesial lay movement, sponsors Pure Fashion, which “encourages teen girls to live, act and dress in accordance with their dignity as children of God,” according to the program Web site.
Mrs. Meyer said she and the other program co-chairs began working to bring Pure Fashion to the area after they took a trip to see a show put on in Fort Wayne, Ind., with their local Challenge girls club several years ago.
They were impressed with the program’s mission, “trying to bring to teenage girls that you can be trendy … but yet still be true to yourself and retain your modesty and your dignity, by being a little bit more creative,” said Mrs. Meyer. “You can take the things that are out there and popular and pair them with a cami underneath if they’re low, or a shrug over top, or just things like that.”
A core group of mothers from the area came forward to help get the program started, and seven college-age women volunteered to serve as team leaders, who are also referred to as “supermodels.”
Since last January, Putnam County Pure Fashion models have attended monthly training sessions to learn about topics such as public speaking, manners, posture, hair and makeup. Their gatherings included a mother-daughter tea, a father-daughter dinner and a weekend retreat.
Mrs. Cassidy said the main focus of each session is “charity and living a life like Christ would.”
Kylee Pothast, 17, a junior at Ottawa-Glandorf High School, said the weekend at Maria Stein Retreat Center was her favorite session.
“I think it’s a good program,” added Kylee, whose mother Julie is one of the program’s co-chairs. “It teaches you so much, not even just about your clothing, but it helps you get more spiritual, too, and become a lot closer with God.”
The day before the fashion show, the models and supermodels were busy practicing their walks and waves on a runway marked out in tape on the floor in the basement of Kalida St. Michael.
“I’ve seen a transformation in just the girls, how they act. They seem a lot more mature now,” observed Ann Rea Miller, 27, a member of St. Michael who served as a Pure Fashion supermodel. “I feel that they’ve grown and even what they’re now choosing to wear to the sessions are different than what it started out to be.”
Shelby said she now notices how immodest clothing can attract negative attention. “I always want to be attracting positive attention and be respected and appear strong, and a leader,” she added.
Mrs. Cassidy said Pure Fashion helps the girls to see that dressing modestly is attainable. “It might be a little harder to do it, but it’s the right thing to do because that’s what Christ wants us to do, is to live like Him,” she said.
And even though the girls enjoy learning about hair, makeup and fashion, Mrs. Cassidy noted ultimately the fashion show is not about their clothing at all.
“It’s about Christ, and radiating His love,” she explains. “So when the girls go out on that runway, it’s going to be about being confident and bringing back the dignity of women, and radiating Christ to all those people out there. It’s not about them. And that’s what they’re being taught.”
Mrs. Meyer said high school girls interested in becoming Pure Fashion models next year should visit www.purefashion.com to submit a model application.