Monday, May 23, 2011

A fashion show for the ages

Emmeline Fucik of Appleton prepares a poodle skirt she will model Sunday as vintage fashions from the 1940s through the '80s are on parade and for sale at a fundraiser for the Community Clothes Closet at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton. / Ron Page/The Post-Crescent

Written by
J.E. Espino

APPLETON  It was a case of serious déjà vu and chuckles for many of the models waiting to flounce down the catwalk at Sunday's Vintage Fashion Show.
"The mini skirts, I definitely do remember that," said Mary Elson, remembering the wild patterns and bright colors she wore in the 1970s as a young woman.
Representing that decade for the event, she wore a long-sleeved, turquoise cocktail dress with silver embroidery and matching silver pumps and observed, "My mother might have worn it."

The biennial fashion show is a fundraiser for the Community Clothes Closet, a nonprofit providing free clothes to people in need.
The show reviews styles from the 1940s to the 1980s. Think floral and psychedelic patterns, high waists, big sunglasses, bell-bottoms, hot pants, eyelet shift dresses, cardigans, jumpsuits and plaid slacks, all in one place.
The event raises between $15,000 and $20,000 for the nonprofit, whose clientele continues to grow year after year. The success of the show is a must to keep the doors open, said Diane Bishop, Community Clothes Closet executive director.
The nonprofit has an annual budget of about $230,000. Last year, it served more than 16,000 people, a significant increase from 2009, when it served 11,500.
"This is the only time that we ever sell anything because we know our clients would not wear these clothes," she said.
The fashion show packed a ballroom at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel, and 48 models hustled to slip in and out of their period attire.
Several of them are connected to the nonprofit through family or work or are longtime friends of Bishop.
"I was the first one out today during the 1940s in a wool bathrobe. I went out with three women wearing their cooking attire, and I was in the 'go-get-the-newspaper' attire," said Paul Cameron, executive director of The Family, Christian radio stations that includes WEMI-FM 91.9. "I've got four times I've got to go through yet, so I've got a couple more eras."
Cameron has participated in the past five fashion shows put on by the nonprofit. But he was not in his comfort zone during Sunday's 1960s segment. Organizers had picked for him a crimson smoking jacket, ascot and pipe. His four companions on the runway were showing off negligees.
"I got the approval of my cohorts as suave and styling," he joked about his look.
Leslie Asare of Appleton thought her three daughters, Lexi, 11, Olivia, 9, and Isabella, 7, would need more coaxing to get involved with the show. But they were handling the pressure well in their maxi dresses.
"We are not going to be professional models or anything, but we're doing it for the charity," she said.
Scott Resch of Appleton soaked in the atmosphere in his laid-back, hippie piece and black wig.
"Everything was more carefree. Everybody was just about love and enjoying one another," he said.
The show brought a flood of memories for some.
"I was of the era of the mini skirt and the empire waist and the bell bottoms," said Gail Bergner of Menasha. "But I'm so glad we don't have to wear dresses all the time anymore, and that we can be sloppy in jeans and T-shirts."
Elson smoothed out her turquoise dress before getting in line with the rest of the models. She thinks clothes from decades past were more fun, at least more than the present one.
"There were less rules. The colors were fantastic. The lengths went up and down, extremely short, to middy, and then maxi. Shoulder pads and then no shoulder pads," she said.
"Today's styles are more conservative. People are more serious now. There are wars all over the place. I think it's a more serious time. There's also a big shortage of money right now."