By ERIKA ANDERSON, Special To The Bulletin | Published November 8, 2012
Less than a week after Halloween—when skimpy costumes seem to be favorite choices among young girls—a group of teenagers strutted down the runway proving fashion can be both trendy and modest.
St. Thomas More Church in Decatur hosted its third annual Pure Fashion Show Sunday, Nov. 4. Models dressed in outfits designed for activities like going to school, spending time with their friends and attending parties, walked the runway at the church’s Mulhern Hall.
Founded in 1999, Pure Fashion is a faith-based program that “encourages teen girls to live, act and dress in accordance with their dignity as children of God.” Offered to girls ages 14 to 18, Pure Fashion encourages teens to become confident, competent leaders who live the virtues of modesty and purity in their schools and communities.
Alejandra Aguirre has served as the Pure Fashion director for the Atlanta chapter for the last three years. The Atlanta program has 40 participants who meet monthly for sessions including runway training, makeup and hair tips, community outreach and public speaking training.
“Our goal is that these girls discover the beauty they have inside—that they learn their exterior beauty truly comes from within,” Aguirre said. “We give these girls an environment to form real friendships based on something deeper.”
Before the event, girls gathered in the hall for a makeup lesson taught by Alyson Hoag, chief executive officer and founder of Authentic Beauty. After forming small groups and helping each other apply their makeup, the girls got ready for the fashion show.
The Pure Fashion program runs through the school year, culminating in a large runway show each spring. But smaller shows, like the one at St. Thomas More, are good for helping build self-confidence, Aguirre said.
“This fall show gives them a chance to be on stage—the first time for many of the girls,” she said. “It puts them outside their comfort zones and helps them discover the potential they have.”
Michele McHale-Pickard, director of the St. Thomas More EDGE program for middle school students, said she thinks the show is an important one for her pre-teens and teens.
“I first saw this advertised online, and it was marketed more toward high-schoolers. But I could see such a need for our middle-school age kids,” she said. “I really think this is something they need to see before high school. They need to see that they can look great, even if they’re not dressing the way society tells them to.”
Nikki Owings, a senior from St. Brendan the Navigator Church in Cumming, has been a part of Pure Fashion for four years.
“I’ve learned that modesty really is the best policy, and people do see you as objects when you dress a certain way,” she said. “But I can be covered up and still exude self-confidence. I can just know that I’m myself and can be confident in who I am. This program has been amazing for me.”
Owings, like many of the older girls, serves as a team leader for the younger participants. Julietta Flores, a junior from St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell, takes her role as a leader very seriously.
“You really get to encourage these girls. When you tell them that something looks good on them, you can see their whole attitude change and they really start to become more confident,” she said. “I know my girls look at me like a role model, and that’s a really big deal to me. I don’t want to do something—even when I’m not around them—that wouldn’t portray me how I want them to see me.”
Megan Frey is a high school senior from Pell City, Ala., and makes the trek to Atlanta every month.
“I just love it so much. This training really shows us how to be young women of God—and there’s such an innocence and beauty in that,” she said. “Through this program, I’ve learned that it’s OK to be a little different than others. Sometimes you feel like you’re the only one who’s different, but you come here and you realize that there are a lot of people on the same path as you are.”
Linda Mora’s daughter, Alyssa, is an eighth-grader who attends Queen of Angels School in Roswell. Mora said she has already seen changes in her daughter during the few months she’s participated in Pure Fashion.
“I think it’s really helping her self-esteem. She’s a ballerina, and body image is such a big thing with dancers. And it’s also just tough for girls her age,” she said. “I can tell her things, but I think it helps to hear it from speakers and other girls rather than just from me. I know this is helping her to feel good about her body. Plus, she’s getting formation without even knowing it. I hope even more girls join—it’s very positive.”
Mora’s daughter, Alyssa, said she’s enjoying her experience with Pure Fashion and is learning more about herself.
“It helps me to know that I don’t have to be perfect. God still loves me either way,” she said.
For Aguirre, learning about that love is an essential part of what she hopes the girls take away from Pure Fashion.
“As a director, I have the beautiful opportunity to experience this with these girls and moms and see how their eyes are opened as to what real beauty and real happiness is,” she said. “I want them to know they are loved unconditionally.”