GAMBIER — Flowy fabrics and playful florals were all the rage at this year’s Step into Spring Fashion Show at the Gallagher Center on Saturday. The beloved annual event is the main fundraiser for the Soroptimist International of Mount Vernon & Knox County, a women’s service organization that aims to improve the lives of women and children. For many longtime attendees, the show also serves as the informal start of spring.
“This is the first spring event of the year,” said chapter president Kelly Brenneman. “We don’t all see each other during the winter because it’s so cold and yucky and so it’s nice to get out, spend time together and raise money for Soroptimist.”
The ladies’ day out attracted a large crowd, including many non-Soroptimist members.
“The great thing about this event is it celebrates fashion,” said Matt Starr, master of ceremonies for the event. “It’s something to smile about, something to celebrate, something that brightens the world.”
When asked what to expect from this spring’s hottest looks, The Weather Vane owner Jean Wyatt said that bright colors will be front and center.
“Lots of flowers, lots of pretty prints,” Wyatt predicted. She said her store is filled with peasant blouses and sun dresses in preparation for spring.
Fashionistas will be happy to know that these lively styles don’t mean sacrificing comfort.
“We’ve got a lot of the meshy fabrics that are so stretchy and comfortable,” said Brittany Thomas, co-owner of Tre Bri Boutique. “We’re still seeing leggings and open shoulders but we’re also seeing cut outs in different places down the arm and at the neckline, so lots of fun designs.”
Nineteen models rocked the runway at Saturday’s show, while attendees enjoyed a buffet lunch and glimpse of this year’s spring trends for women and girls. The models sported outfits from retailers including The Weather Vane in Gambier, Wildflower Ranch Resale in Mount Vernon, Clothes-N-Counters in Mount Vernon, LuLaRoe consultant Adrienne Harris of Mount Vernon, Tre Bri Boutique in Newark and Southern Accents Boutique in Marion.
For retailers, participating in the fundraiser is a no-brainer.
“It supports a great charity,” said Brenda Gilliam, owner of the Southern Accents Boutique. “And once people see what you offer in your store and the quality of it, I think it’s the best advertising you can get.”
Megan Chamberlin, a freshman at Mount Vernon High School, showed off looks from Wildflower Ranch Resale. It’s the third year she and her mother, Becky, have modeled in the show.
“The first year I was really nervous, but now I’m fine with it,” said Megan. “It’s just a bunch of women in the room and we’re all so comfortable.”
The atmosphere was a warm and welcoming one, but Megan said her favorite part is picking out the outfits she wears. Most of the models picked out their own ensembles, creating a variety of outfits that showed off each lady’s unique style.
While some said that strutting down the runway was nerve wracking, first-year model Dottie McGinty wasn’t worried.
“All I have to do is walk, and I’ve been doing that for more than 60 years,” said McGinty, who wore a colorful dress with an asymmetrical neckline from Southern Accents Boutique.
Soroptimist International of Mount Vernon and Knox County focuses on empowering women, helping survivors of human trafficking and human trafficking prevention. The group actively supports organizations including New Directions Domestic Violence Shelter, Hope Now, Gracehaven shelter in Franklin County, Distinguished Young Women of Knox County, The Winter Sanctuary and funds numerous scholarships.
For Soroptimist Becky Chamberlin, the highlight of Saturday’s event was knowing the difference it will make in others’ lives.
“I don’t like showing off the clothes as much as knowing what we are accomplishing with it,” she said. “ We’re raising money to be able to help women in a lot of different ways. That’s the best part.”
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