Volume 81, Number 4 | June 23 - 29, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Marta Valle High School students at the Smart and Fabulous Fashion Show.

From resisting a dress code to walking the runway

By Muneeza Iqbal

The Tony Awards were not the only red carpet event two weekends ago. Marta Valle High School on the Lower East Side boasted its own glamorous red carpet with dazzling models at the first annual Smart and Fabulous Fashion Show.

“The process evolved around a conversation with students about our Dress for Success code and someone asked ‘What is ‘Dress for Success’?’ and here we are today after a year of hard work!” said Principal Mimi Fortunato.

“It became much more than Dress for Success. It’s now more about connecting the students to the larger community and the real world,” said Alicia Carlson, an English teacher and co-adviser of the “student ambassadors” of the fashion show. As a result, students were put in charge of running the show themselves, from choreography to recording the event.

The audience consisted of students, parents, siblings and sponsors. They were buzzing with excitement after the red carpet and were even more pumped up by the end of the opening dance act. Then the very talented school chorus sang some classic numbers from the ’60s. The boys looked sharp with their bow ties, and the girl’s stunned the audience in their sparkling dresses.

And then the main event began. With pop music in the background, and students in the audience singing along and cheering loudly, the models came in by twos, strutted across the stage and then walked down the aisle in between the spectators.

The student models wore clothes they chose from Forever 21, with their makeup done by Estée Lauder volunteers. A prom collection was also shown, with the dresses borrowed from the Lower Eastside Girls Club.

“This is a celebration of their evolution!” declared Fortunato.

A year ago a uniform dress code had been enforced at the Stanton St. school and the students were not very happy with it. They had to wear only black, white or gray, collared shirts with slacks or skirts, because the school wanted them to learn “how to dress in the real world.”

PENCIL, an organization dedicated to connecting New York City public schools with local professionals, invited professionals to give talks on successful dressing to the students. But the youths did not want to wear clothing that did not represent them or their style. An alternative was found: to let them combine the smart casual look promoted by the school along with their own creative edge.

Brian Roberts, a junior at the high school, came to meet his beaming parents after the show. They were one of the event’s sponsors through their company, Perfect Pitch Media, and were extremely proud of their son’s performance.

“It was our first show and we were very nervous but also very excited,” Roberts said, with a wide grin across his face.

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