Women in daringly short skirts and skyscraper heels. Bouncers in black suits and silver sunglasses at the entrance to a luxe show tent.
But this wasn’t Tuileries de Paris, the famed French gardens that host fall and spring fashion shows. It was Rosemont Middle School.
Waitresses served chocolate-covered strawberries and cupcakes topped with interlocking Cs, the logo of the renowned French fashion house Chanel, as the school played host Monday evening to its first-ever student fashion show.
“I wanted the girls to have a professional fashion show,” said teacher Janna Kasmanian, who staged the event as the culmination to her year-long fashion class. “I wanted them to get the experience of what it is like. They worked so hard this year. I wanted to do something they are never going to forget.”
And while the setting was impressive, nothing could upstage the clothes. Each of the 23 student participants modeled collections they had designed and produced during the class. They included avant-garde and formal-wear pieces, as well as those inspired by cultural and historical references.
There were ribbons, bows, feathers and sequins galore, followed by tulle, tartan and sheep “shearling.” One student-designed top was adorned with yellow lead pencils, while a dress evoked the Queen of Hearts from “Alice in Wonderland.”
“They made magic in here,” said Rosemont Principal Cynthia Livingston, who attended several rehearsals and even gave the girls tips on how to work the runway.
Among the crowd favorites were a dress fashioned out of Whole Foods grocery bags, and another that featured a blinking lightning bolt that protruded 10 inches out of one shoulder.
“You really have the chance to be creative,” said Molly Spurgeon, 14, creator of the lightning bolt dress. “You just kind of dive into it — it gives you a lot of self confidence.”
Much of the work was done by trial and error, and there were plenty of mistakes, students said, including designs that looked more fabulous on paper than in real form.
“I started a feather dress, and it just went horribly,” said Natalie Smith, 14. “A lot of the feathers fell off, so then there were patches of brown and yellow feathers all over. It was really a catastrophe.”
Morgan Macgowan, 14, found herself rethinking a pink formal gown after a wardrobe malfunction during rehearsal.
“I didn’t fall down, but something fell down,” Morgan said.
Executing the show, which she hopes to make an annual event, was as much about communication and hard work as it was about fashion design, Kasmanian said.
“I can’t believe they walked the way they did,” Kasmanian said. “I was so shocked at some of their postures, their self-esteem.”