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Fashion show, tea raises money for Arts Outreach

May 04, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

Mercersburg, Pa. - Ladies in Victorian fashions strolled among the tables at a Victorian Fashion Show and Tea on Saturday afternoon. Some were dressed to go to a ball, some for visiting or walking, and one for working in the garden.

All displayed their dresses with poise and grace to appreciative applause from the audience, seated around tea tables.

Held at the First United Methodist Church in Mercersburg, the tea and fashion show were a fund-raiser for Arts Outreach, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides free arts enrichment classes in the summer to children in grades two through 12.

The youngest model, Remi Pierce, 3, of St. Thomas, showed off "a little girl's walking dress and proper drawers," according to narrator Cynthia Lawrence Fink. A clothing historian from Fort Loudon, Pa., Fink made all the dresses modeled at the show.

Remi said she enjoyed "the walking around," and likes her outfit because "it's pretty."

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As an "older young lady," Miss Abigail, 6, wore a fan front dress.

When a girl turned 8, Fink explained, she was allowed to wear one hoop. By age 12, she could wear as many as four hoops to hold her skirt out. "Many Victorian girls married at 14," Fink said, "so at 12, she was becoming a young lady."

Miss Tanya modeled the clothing a young woman working around her home and garden would wear; a homespun dress, which "wears like iron," Fink said, and no hoops. "They were too dangerous around the fire," she said.

Miss Tanya also wore a huge straw hat to protect her face and neck from the sun. "It was considered vulgar to have a tan," Fink said.

Some of the accessories the models wore were originals, such as glass buttons, a bonnet, a fur-trimmed capelet and a winter-weight embroidered silk shawl with hand-knotted fringe.

Fink, co-coordinator of the event with Nancy Walker of Mercersburg, has done costume work for movies and theatrical productions. She wore a Garibaldi bodice, a Godey's vest in the style of one featured in Godey's Lady's Book in 1863, and a plaid skirt.

Fink said she does much of her research in museum vaults, and she drew the weaving pattern for her skirt from original clothing of the period, and had a mill weave it for her. Her antique buttons were abalone shells carved into flowers.

A dance historian, Walker said that Arts Outreach recently received a grant from the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts.

"Fort Loudon, Mercersburg and McConnellsburg seem to have a dearth of activities for children in the summer," she said. "They are not exposed to a lot of arts activities. We bring in professional artists used to working with children."

Fink added that classes this summer will include Indian Lore and Beadwork, Photography, a music program, a drawing class and Beginning Basket Making. Her own Soft Sculpture class will make dragon hatchlings, based on those in the popular Harry Potter series.

"We're trying to get the kids to read more," she said. "If they get interested in reading, they go further."

All teachers are either art teachers or working artists, or both, Fink said. "Our classes are rarely quiet, but we have few discipline problems because they are interested," she said.

"We'd like to make this a program the community wraps itself around," she said, and that people think "is a good part of their community."

Classes will be held in Fort Loudon and Mercersburg this summer. For more information, or to register for classes, call Arts Outreach, Inc. at 1-717-369-4058

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