Fashion festival celebrates diversity, body image

Christina Cleary

Watch out Paris. Move over Milan. There’s a new fashion mecca in town, at least as Villanova’s concerned.

Pimped out in popped collars, pastels and polo shirts, Villanova students took to the runway as they celebrated diversity and loving their body image during the 2nd annual “Love the Skin You’re In” fashion festival.

The festival, which took place on Monday evening in the Connelly Center’s Villanova Room, was the kickoff event for the University’s Health and Wellness Week.

More than 50 students of varying races, religions, ethnicities and sizes participated in the event.

Students assumed the roles of emcees, models or performance artists, wowing a crowd estimated at greater than 400 people.

And that’s not including the spectators in the standing room-only sections.

“The turnout was amazing,” senior Brian Lamsback said. “The only other time you see a crowd of ‘Nova students like that is at a basketball game.”

In fact, the enthusiasm at the fashion festival was much like that at a basketball game, with the ‘Nova Nation pride extending beyond the court and onto the runway.

Before the event even began, there was a line stretching from the doors of the room.

Once inside, students piled into the packed aisles, straining in their seats to watch each model strut his or her stuff.

As music blared from the speakers, students of all shapes and sizes strolled the catwalk to celebratory themes like “Be You”, “Be Natural” and “Every Body is Beautiful”.

The crowd, in true ‘Nova style, cheered encouragingly.

“Your energy is beautiful,” shouted senior and fashion festival emcee, Gillian Greaves to the spectators as she took a walk down the runaway. “Beautiful energy from beautiful people.”

The crowd’s beauty was only surpassed by that of the models themselves.

Decked out in outfits provided by 18 participating businesses, including such companies as Skirt, Lilly Pulitzer, Fraj, Life is Good and Bloomingdale’s, the models exuded a sense of confidence and fun.

The confidence and fun was the whole point of the event for the students.

“The driving force behind the festival is that we wanted to get a positive message across to the students about body image,” said Stacy Andes, assistant director for the Center for Health and Wellness Education, who coordinated the event.

“Both the counseling center and the Center for Health and Wellness Education deal with topics like eating disorders, healthy eating and body image regularly. We wanted to find a creative medium for this message. Villanova is a very fashion conscious campus, so we thought to ourselves, ‘What about a fashion show?'”

Through the collaboration of campus sponsors including the Counseling Center, the Center for Health and Wellness Education, Alpha Chi Omega, Multicultural Affairs, the Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life and Women’s Studies, the fashion festival became a reality in 2005.

This year, the event took on an even greater role in raising awareness about diversity by including performance pieces and talent exhibits.

Musical entertainment was provided by Villanova’s African drummers, senior Kimberly Townsend and the Villanova Voices. In addition, there were two powerful spoken word pieces performed by sophomore Black Cultural Society President, Ivanley Noisette, and junior female athlete, Taylor Shrang.

“The inner and outer all one, no separation in power, all sung from the same tune,” read Noisette about beauty. “Notes provoked from delicious strokes, or delectable wrotes/ colorful scents, gathered and splattered on humanity’s canvas.”

That colorful canvas was very present in the more than 400 students in the Villanova Room during the fashion festival.

For just a moment, all ideals of beauty were ignored and every Villanova student independent of their appearance was a supermodel.