When it comes to fashion for the girls at St. Mary School in Oak Ridge, the trend is “modest is hottest.”
Challenge, a virtue and apostolate-based program for girls at St. Mary, met two times a month leading up to a fashion show held May 11 at Oak Ridge Country Club. The middle school girls worked on every phase of the fashion event, from securing sponsorships, marketing the show and selecting the attire to putting on the dinner and show.
Fifth-grade girls were responsible for decorations, with the theme being “girls with a mission and a passion for fashion.” The sixth grade was in charge of fundraising, and they collected a number of items that were raffled off to the audience. Seventh-graders were in charge of advertising the event and serving as commentators and persuaded Altar’d State, Belk and Red Robin to be sponsors. The eighth-grade girls served as models for the clothing.
The program is led by high school students and is supported by a youth minister, college students and parents. Margaret Merrill serves in youth ministry at St. Mary and was a lead organizer of the event.
“Our goal is heaven. Everything we do leads us toward this goal or away from this goal,” Mrs. Merrill said, noting that her family has worked to keep activities like sports in balance so that heaven is always the goal for doing anything.
“My oldest two children are now working and sports plays only a small percentage in their life now, but their faith is everything. So it is with fashion. The commercials and Hollywood role models have created an unbalance in our modesty and character. Having five girls, I know how it can lead us from our goal of heaven. The world tells us confusing messages and we have forgotten the sacredness of our bodies,” she said.
Sister Mary Rebekah, of St. Mary School, who helped lead the fashion show, said it is vital for middle school girls to have a positive influence like Challenge on their fashion choices and the girls actually desire boundaries.
“It’s extremely important because in our day and age, women are being treated as objects and so as they see ads in magazines, they see these commercials—how women are being portrayed with the air brush, flawless skin, and the sexually provocative clothing—they think they have to be that way. They think they have to dress that way and act that way in order to be a woman, in order to be beautiful. So something like this teaches them that beauty goes so much deeper than that fake image that’s being portrayed by our media. Beauty is a reflection of God’s creation. Beauty is something that is because of who they are, not because of what they wear or people’s opinions of them,” Sister Mary Rebekah said.
St. Mary, which also offers a program for boys called Conquest, wants students to have fun in the activities and socialize, which are important ways for them to share their faith and grow spiritually.