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Students strut their stuff at Body Positive

Photo by Kris Hargraves

By Kris Hargraves

The Mills community jammed to the pulsating rhythm of the upbeat music and the cheers of their fellow students. More than 15 women and men confidently strode, cycled and spun down a glittering runway. Their message: being yourself is always in season.

The college's first "Body Positive Fashion Show" was held in the Student Union last Thursday, Sept. 15. The event was sponsored by the Division of Student Life and showcased the personal fashion styles of Mills students. More than 15 models traversed a red and gold fabric catwalk in the clothing and makeup of their choice. Sara Howard, a senior, and Michael Cox, an alumna of the music program, emceed the event, providing rousing commentary on every piece to an energetic crowd of more than 50 people.

Howard, a senior and resident assistant, created the event to celebrate every physical appearance. She believes individual fashion should be encouraged as it is a positive enhancement of a person's well-being. "Fashion is what we use to express how comfortable we are with our bodies," she said. "Body image is really about looking good and feeling good…[and] clothes are a good way to accent that."

Howard said she gained support for the event from DSL and numerous students because "Mills women are never difficult." Jessica Lynn Dewey-Hoffman, a junior and fellow RA, provided the bass-laden soundtrack for the show while other DSL members and friends of Howard decorated the Student Union. Fifteen students replied to Howard's e-mail solicitation for models. No prior modeling experience was necessary and no practices were held before the event.

Megan Brian, a senior, chose to help out because she knew Howard was involved. "I came by to set-up [and] help things run smoothly…because everything Sarah does is fun," she said.

Jackie Kennedy, a freshwoman, volunteered as a model to exhibit her sense of style. "I'm from Orange County where things are not so body positive," she said. She chose to model "the housewife look" by wearing a pink dress, lace apron, white gloves and pearls. "My look is a satire on gender roles," she said. "I'm trying to provide a balance to the edginess that others are doing."

Models stylishly strode in everything from sportswear to yellow stilettos.

Megan Wheelehan, a senior, rode her bicycle down the catwalk, showing off the beauty of athletic attire. Kate Swartz, a sophomore, opted for the casual comfort of worn jeans and sneakers. "My look is hobo chic," she said. "It's new."

Transfers, continuing and foreign exchange students took pictures, catcalled, and cheered from the sidelines of the inspiring festivities. After the scheduled procession of models took place, several audience members strode down the runway in an impromptu performance. Cox believes Howard generated a casual vibe essential to encouraging such participation. "Because [her approach] was so casual, it really encouraged people to participate," he said. "It's more important that people feel comfortable rather than making it a big event."

The festivities concluded with Howard and Cox taking their turn on the catwalk. The entire event only lasted 30 minutes, prompting Howard to call it "the shortest, most poignant fashion show in history."

Most students felt the event was a success despite its brevity. Miwako Surahami, a student at the English Center for International Women, came because she loves fashion and was pleased with what she saw. "Everyone was cute," she said.

Zarah Shaw, a sophomore, felt the supportive environment provided great initiative to be yourself," she said.

Howard was also pleased with the results. "Everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves which is what I wanted," she said. "I only wished more people could have come but I understand people have work and classes."

According to her, Mills can expect more fashion fun in the future.