On the runway, calming jitters and building confidence


STYLE: Above, left, freshman Danielle Finn modeled a red button down coat. Senior Ari Sassover, middle, donned a black floral dress and corduroy jacket. Sophomore Rebecca Cohen, right, wore a long floral dress with sandles. BP Photos by Neima Fax

By Shani Shaham, Staff Writer

Standing in the Shalhevet gym, freshman Danielle Finn attempted to tame the butterflies in her stomach Jan. 13 while an audience of women from throughout the Los Angeles Jewish community waited in anticipation for the long-planned event to begin.

The gym had been completely transformed, with a runway starting from the stage and splitting the room in half, mechitzahs to hide the models from the audience, vendors’ booths along the edges of the room, the and blue and gold balloons in every corner.

Awaiting their turns on the makeshift runway were female students were dressed in vibrant, trendy and modest clothing as volunteer models in the Fourth Annual Shalhevet Womens Fashion Show.  

Danielle said she might not have been able to do it if not for the advice of Gabby Grunfeld and Kira and Jackie Faerstain, co-presidents of the Fashion Club, which sponsored the event.

“The idea of walking down the aisle is really nerve-wracking,” said Danielle after the show, “but the co-presidents told us to be confident with it and to just be ourselves. So when it was my turn to walk, I decided to put my own spin on it and to have fun with it.”

The fashion show is also an amazing opportunity to create a space where all Jewish women can gather together and create a warm and confident community.

— Gabby Grunfeld, 12th grade

Shalhevet’s Fashion Club was created in 2015, and immediately initiated the fashion show, which was directed to raise money for the senior Poland-Israel Experience. It raised $2,450 this year, according to Gabby Grunfeld. However, some of it was subtracted because of the security that needed to be paid.

But in addition to fundraising, ever since the first year, the fashion show’s mission has been to create a close-knit community and to embolden all the women in the room.

“We put on the fashion show to empower women in the Jewish community by showing them that regardless of observance or belief that you can have fun and play with fashion, and you can still be colorful and unique within yourself,” said Gabby.

Toward that end, the three co-presidents aided and advised the models with conquering their nerves prior to the show.  Models practiced walking the runway in the hours before the show started with hopes to help ease the nerves that come from standing on a stage in front of a big audience.

Along with relieving stagefright, the rehearsals had brought the girls closer together.

“At one point before all the people started to show up, all the models were just hanging out, trying on each other’s outfits and helping everyone get ready,” said Danielle. “We were just having fun.”

Danielle wore a cheetah print midi wrap dress layered with a long red button-down coat. While walking down the runway, she didn’t give into all the eyes that followed her every step.

“I didn’t really like the way my outfit looked on me, but Gabby helped me see it in a different light,” said Danielle. “She gave me the idea to close the show by taking the jacket off when I got to the end of the runway, and then carry it over my shoulder while I walked back.”

Walking down the runway may be an intimidating experience at first, but for models who have been in the fashion show in its previous years, the challenge has turned into something fun and memorable.

Senior Ari Sassover was a model in the fashion show’s second year — her sophomore year — and this year decided to participate one last time.

“The first time I was a model I was really scared, but this year it was much more fun and I wasn’t really nervous,” said Ari.

“It’s really nice that the models are not just from one grade, so students can become friends with one another even if they are in a different class. The fashion show is another chance to strengthen the Shalhevet community amongst the girls.”

Ari modeled a knee-length black floral dress paired with a black corduroy cropped jacket. She walked down the runway with the jacket halfway off to show reveal the dress underneath.

“I tried to be as in the moment as I could and just enjoy being with my friends,” said Ari. “Knowing that the funds raised went to charity made the fashion show so much more meaningful.”    

Along with Gabby, her fellow co-presidents Jackie and Kira Faerstain worked for almost a year on this year’s show. When last year’s show ended, they immediately got to work staying in contact with the clothing stores and vendors.

Shalhevet provides the runway, stage, and tables. Clothing vendors also showed up at the event.

“The fashion show is also an amazing opportunity to create a space where all Jewish women can gather together and create a warm and confident community,” said Gabby.

Reflecting on her experience in this year’s show, Danielle said she hoped it could turn into something that is a bigger part of school and the greater community.

“I think that next year we could bring in other aspects to make it more of an amazing event,” said Danielle in an interview with the Boiling Point. “This is such a cool event and I think that if we could add more things to get more people from the school to come then it could only get better and more valuable towards the community.”

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