Fashion Over Fifty’s First Fashion Show at Bloomingdales
Wow. How exciting is this? Every woman Over Fifty feels invisible and like they have fallen off the fashion cliff. Not a surprise. Retailers, Designers and Advertisers have avoided us like the plague. Even Eileen Fisher and Chico’s don’t use Over Fifty models and we are clearly their demographic. So thanks to Mark David Carter, our runway coach, and John Liptak, the stylist from Bloomingdales, we have this golden opportunity to show the public how great women Over Fifty can look.
The week before the fashion show, the women go through training and have four days of events that celebrate the Divine Feminine in all of us. We have 3 day so runway training which is not as easy as it looks. By the third day, the models are more comfortable with themselves and their walk down the runway. In the afternoons, classes are scheduled. Typically, there is a class in hair and image styling. Here the ladies learn the best hair style for the shape of their face. The next day we meet with an aesthetician who reviews options for skin care for skincare for the woman Over Fifty. There is also a makeup class where our wonderful makeup artist goes through each woman’s make up bag giving tips and demonstrations on how to apply make up for the woman Over Fifty. At our last show we even had a belly dancing class!!
On the first day of the program, class starts with Mark David Carter, teaching the ladies the basic steps, like, quarter turns, half turns, and which foot is the lead off. Of course, you must stand up straight, hold in your stomach and put your shoulders back. Try this for 3 hours and guaranteed you will be sore the next day
Mark practices with each woman to give everyone individualized attention. Each woman has her own way of walking and Mark tries to help them optimize it. Modeling here with Mark is Marilyn. Marilyn was a great addition to the variety of women that we had in the show!! She is petite. Many women who are petite complain that there are not clothes out there for them. But wait until she meets the stylist John. Marilyn is very artistic and you will see that she has a flair for style!! Along with the fact that she is really beautiful.
For some it came easy, and for others, not so easy. How great is this for women Over Fifty? They tell us that we must keep our mind active and learning new things like dance steps or modeling techniques is great for the brain!! It also helps women to embrace themselves, and literally put their best foot forward. These classes are all about no longer feeling invisible. It’s about letting your inner self shine. Somehow as we age, we forget to do this. Our goal throughout the week is to support each woman. Some have had cancer, some have recently lost someone they love, or gone through some other life crisis. We are there to encourage each woman, and we love to create a group camaraderie. At the end of each show, everyone has shared with me how this experience has changed them in some way. So really, Fashion Over Fifty is not just about Fashion, it is about creating a strong sense of womanhood to be proud of, no matter what size, shape, color, or anything else.
This is Maureen. Maureen looks like she stepped right out of Central Casting. She is tall, statuesque, beautiful, and really nice too. She sells real estate in Chicago and took time out from her busy schedule to model in the show. A big discussion these days is whether to let your hair go gray or whether to continue coloring it. It is a move in the right direction just to have permission to let it go gray. As you can see and will see, the women with gray hair can wear colors that might not look as good on someone else. Letting your hair go natural gives you lots of new options and the ability to recreate yourself. Most women I talk to, never regret letting it go natural, in fact, they usually regret not doing it sooner.
Practice makes perfect. Look how hard everyone is concentrating. Just a couple more days of this ladies and you will have it down.
It isn’t too long before the ladies begin to feel it. Look how professional they look already, and it’s only been a few hours!! The confidence in some of the women was very shaky at first, but by the time of the show, with all of our support, these ladies were beaming.
What a great group of ladies we have. Boy, we all got so lucky. My goal for all of these women was to create the feeling of collaboration. Instead of competition, it was about supporting each other because we are all sisters. We need to shift the paradigm in this country to one where women are embraced for their intrinsic beauty no matter what age. We need to respect one another for the journey we have made in this lifetime. Everyone has a story and most of us have not had it so easy. This format was so perfect for encouraging each woman to respect the other women’s journeys. Some were cancer survivors, others had low self esteem, while one woman had been a dancer in Las Vegas.
No broken bones. Everyone looks pretty happy. I am thinking this is going to work out fine. YES!!!
Well, now we are finally getting to know each other and everyone is a bit more relaxed. According to Mark it takes 30 hours of training on the runway to get it right. It’s like muscle memory, so that when you are nervous, you just do it without even having to think. Mark is the ultimate professional. He knows just how to make a woman feel wonderful about herself, and how to encourage someone without embarrassing them. In fact, he does it in such a loving manner, you can’t help but fall in love with him. We are so grateful to have such a kind soul working with us Over Fifty women because we are probably a bit more reserved and shy because in our culture, women Over Fifty are not thought of as sexy, or model-esque, or even as stylish. However, Fashion Over Fifty is going to change that one woman at a time if necessary.
Day Two is about refining what we learned on Day One. It’s about knowing on which foot to start. It’s about knowing how to pivot on one foot, which means balance. A lot of us don’t practice balance which is not only important in modeling but in every day life as we get older. It’s about trying to put it all together so that you don’t fall or look silly. That is why doing more than one day of training is very important. Practice makes perfect.
This is Peggy. Her mom always wanted her to be a model, but she chose being a lawyer instead. Probably the smarter move. However, our motto is: “It’s never too late!!” which is another wonderful thing about this program. It is a chance for these women to live out a dream that they may never have had the chance to have. After all, what little girl doesn’t dream of being a model or a ballerina one day? Peggy at the time had just turned 60. Where did she get that gorgeous skin?
Meet Susan. Susan lives in the building where we were practicing. She was so intrigued with what we were doing that she asked if she could join in. We said,”of course, why not?” Susan ended up being ecstatic by the time of the show and was so happy that her two daughters got to see her model in a real fashion show!!
This is Wilma, who at the time was 77 at the time. Not our oldest model by a long shot. Wilma is a great role model for every woman. At 77 she didn’t miss a beat. She loves to travel, play cards, visit with her 4 children and 8 grand kids. She is the woman about town and finally let her natural gray hair grow in. She looks so chic with the color and style of her hair, she is mad that she didn’t do it sooner.
This is Blanche. Blanche is taking this modeling job seriously, just like she does in her real job of selling real estate. Blanche had lots of brothers and sisters and always grew up with hand me downs. So even to this day, she appreciates having new clothes. Blanche feels that when she dresses nicely she adds to the landscape that people look at on a day to day basis. She feels that if she dresses nicely she is adding to the beauty of the landscape and feels this is an important aspect of life.
Meet Laurel. Laurel is one of our more educated models with her Masters in Education. She is a valuable contributor to her community and volunteers at several organizations. What she really wants people to know about her is that she loves her sister and considers her sister to be so important in her life. Maybe next time your sister would like to join in too? Laurel always had a smile and was her energy was infectious. Once she started trying on clothes, the fun really began!!
Meet Carole. Another one of our models in her 70’s. It’s really hard to tell how old women are today when they take good care of themselves. She was gracious enough to let us use the party room in her condo and she even provided coffee and snacks. A gracious hostess is the understatement, and as it was our first fashion show, I was so grateful to have her support. Carol loves to travel and is a wonderful artist. Another perk of doing these shows is that many of us stay friends. I was able to attend one of Carol’s art shows after the fashion show, and not only is she a great model, but she is a great artist as well. Along with being beautiful too.
Meet Anne. Anne has something that gives her an edge right away. She is tall and beautiful!! Aside from that she has worked in a Foundation that provides Hospice Care to the gravely ill and dying patient. There is no greater or higher calling than doing this. Anne is dedicated to providing comfort to the sick and dying. As a Registered Nurse, I am truly grateful for the work that she does because I too worked with dying patients and was at the bedside of numerous patients when they passed. But, despite the seriousness of what Anne does, she is really fun to be around. She also had a great time modeling for Fashion Over Fifty.
This is Jeanne. She is my friend and flew in from California just to be in the show. She was 50 at the time. I was 61. Looking back at 50, I don’t think your body really starts to go south until your mid to late 50’s. So, she almost doesn’t count in terms of the changes in body image that we all go through, but, psychologically we all know that just turning the big “5” “0” is definitely a milestone. In the United States, it is really almost dreaded by most women. Nonetheless., we were thrilled to have her.
Meet Theresa. Theresa came all the way from North Carolina to accompany her friend, Phyllis, who wanted to do the show. Theresa originally wasn’t all that excited about doing the show, but once she got started, she began to embrace the new things she was learning. The styling sessions were also quite helpful. Many times we go into a dressing room and don’t really know what we think. We ask the salesperson, but then we don’t know how much we can trust them, if we don’t know them. This week we were there for each other to give advice. It was like being back in high school shopping with your best friends. And in the spirit of collaboration, we all were anxious to help each other out.
This is Phyllis. Phyllis at the time was NINETY years old. For Phyllis, this was not as adventuresome as skydiving or driving a fighter plane, which she had recently done; but modeling in a fashion show was definitely something she wanted to take off her bucket list. So in she came from North Carolina with her best friend Theresa and watching her on that runway you would never know it. You will get a chance to see her!! She is the greatest role model of all because we NEVER EVER stop growing. She is a true testament that every day we are alive, we have a chance to grow and to do something different with our lives. BRAVO FOR PHYLLIS!!
MiMi was great to have on board. As a dancer in Las Vegas in her younger years, she has never lost her poise, figure, or “know how” I can’t speak for MiMi, but I am guessing being Over Fifty has to have some challenges, because society just does not embrace us for our intrinsic beauty. MiMi has those phenomenal legs too, which you will get to see at the fashion show!!
Meet Deb. Deb has done a lot in her 60 years. She was an airline stewardess for many years. Influenced by her fashionista mom, she later became a fashion designer herself. She wanted to do the show so that she could see what it was like on the other side of the runway. Deb has been in every one of our shows since this first one. She has a flair for the dramatic and is always red carpet ready. I think she needs to move to Hollywood and start her next career.
Mark and I watching our models with pride and thinking about the show in another two days!! These women are so in to it, it’s great.
DAY FOUR REHEARSAL
Meet John our stylist. Without John none of this would have taken place. One afternoon I was talking to him after I went with my Aunt had to return something at Bloomingdales. I started talking to him about my vision for women Over Fifty in our Society. I complained to him about the same thing that almost all women Over Fifty complain about; that there are no fashions for women Over Fifty. I mentioned to him that I had just taken a modeling class from my friend Mark Carter, and what a good idea it would be to have a fashion show with only women Over Fifty. It felt like we talked for only a short while, but John said it was almost 3 hours!!! Wow, I must have really been on a rant. Anyway, John at 24 years old was not only a visionary but a smart business man as well. He went to his Manager after I had wandered off, and told her about my idea. Somehow his manager, Eileen, found me and told me that they would like to do the shows at Bloomingdales. I responded somewhat like I must have been in shock. “Really?” I said. “Really?” I said again. And that was how this all got started. Thanks to Mark David Carter and John Liptak!!
THE FASHION SHOW