Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stomp the runway

Last night, I went to a fashion show.

Normally, this wouldn't be such an odd event on my agenda. But I'm in Saudi Arabia, a land where the most you see of the female body is what you see when the wind causes the abaya to Marilyn Monroe and reveal some ankles or even a calf.

This fashion show was the culmination of work for a Senior Project and was completely student organized. I was dog tired from a long day of work, but some of my tenth-graders were modeling in the show, so I felt it was important I was there to support them.

Boy am I ever glad I went! It was unlike any fashion show I have ever been to. It started with the doors being opened and about 100 upper elementary and middle school girls clambering across the gym to claim front row seats (a friend and I had already staked our claims front and center because she was the teacher supervisor). The seniors decided that the front rows were reserved for mothers and teachers, so 4 or 5 of them were tasked with shooing the young girls away. It was so fun to watch the exasperation grow as they continually had to chase the same group of girls from the same clump of chairs. "Augh! They're not listening!!"

Welcome to my world, ladies.

As we waited for the show to start, the food started.

Yes. I said food. Like I said, this was unlike any fashion show. Trays of kibba (a delicious meat-stuffed rice patty), egg rolls, miniature fruit tarts, and cookies were paraded in front of us and girls with kahwa (Arabic coffee) made sure our paper cups never went dry. It was a wonderful distraction, but almost 40 minutes after the show was supposed to start, the aforementioned hordes of young girls were getting restless. And loud.

Thankfully, the show began shortly afterward. The DJ started the music and then yelled into the mic "ARE YOU READY?" and the gym was filled with the gleeful shrieks of hundreds of tweens.

You'd have thought we'd gone to a Bieber concert.

I loved the fact that the models wobbled their way down the runway in their 5 inch stilettos as much as I do in my pitiful 2 inch heels. It made me feel like I'm not the only one who has a hard time with fake height. The whole idea behind the senior project that the show was representing was that fashion projects unhealthy body images, and models don't have to be starved to be beautiful. There were 2 screens on which were projected real runway images, and on the runway in our gym were our real models wearing similar outfits, showing that healthy bodies can be high fashion.

At home, this same idea would feature a shot from a Gucci show and then a local girl wearing a JCPenney's imitation. She would look cute, but it would be obvious that she'd gotten her look at the mall.

But a few times in this show, Gucci was on the screen, and Gucci was in the gym. These girls had either borrowed or bought the REAL runway fashions.

Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.

Proud mothers dabbed tears, friends of the models, held up signs (yes, SIGNS) and screamed, and the models served up face as they stomped the runway surely feeling on top of the world. It kind of made me giggle, but I also felt a little sad.

These girls don't have Prom, or Homecoming. They have no excuse to get all dolled up and strut their stuff, so this fashion show must have been epic for them. The pinnacle of their school year. I was sitting next to a woman who wasn't even the mother of one of the models. She doesn't even have a daughter that goes to my school! She had just heard that there was going to be a fashion show and she came! That's how starved for entertainment the women in this country are.

I remember the magic of Prom and school dances and how fun it was to get dressed up and worshiped for a night. Every high school girl needs a chance to be the center of attention and told how beautiful she is. This fashion show gave that to a few girls, but it is a one-time thing, and there are hundreds more girls in this country who won't get that chance.

At the end of the night, I was exhausted but I was so happy for my students who were models and volunteers that helped make the night happen. The show was wonderfully organized and I'm sure it will be one of those awesome high school memories for many people there.

Vicariously yours,

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