Eco-Runway Show at Value Village!

By Jocelyne Kilpatrick

It has been just a few short months since the Claire Closet, founded by Holy Cross high school teacher Claire Bouvier, began hosting fashion workshops for girls in Grades 9 and 10. On March 2nd, the CC girls betrayed a hidden confidence as they strutted down the runway at Value Village for their Spring Runway Show.

“I’m really quite introverted,” one girl confesses, “But when I come here I am out of my shell. It’s Claire – she’s my light and joy!”

Amongst the aisles of the second-hand mega-store, Claire is immediately visible with her long, blonde hair curled and pulled back – hipster-style – with a girlish bow. Bright pink lipstick tops off a thrifted ensemble.
The themes of the runs reflect the values of the Closet: BeYouTiful, Yoga & Healthy Living, Throwback – a retro-styled run full of polk-a-dots paired to a fun and lively beat. All of the girls have put together the outfits themselves.
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Priya Gupta, Grade 10, flies down the runway in a blue sequined dress, a large smile on her face as she pauses for the camera (photographer Camille Prior):
“I love coming to The Claire Closet workshops. Each week I go I come back with more knowledge about myself and essentially how to be a better version of myself. Many of the inspirational women that come each week teach us how to feel more comfortable accepting ourselves and helping us learn to be better people, friends and family members. Claire is a wonderful mentor who is so full of knowledge and love, and I cannot express how much I love her and the time and dedication she puts into these workshops for us.”
High School is not exactly as many of us remember: Sure, there are the same insecurities, but without having to battle them post-school on Facebook. Bullies and meanies will always exist, but enter the un-policed realms of Twitter and SnapChat.
In this image-driven culture that praises superficialities more than character, it’s easy to become a little obsessed – and stressed – about the way we look.

Emily Binkley is a print princess in paisley. Photo credit: Camille Prior.
Emily Binkley is a print princess in paisley. Photo credit: Camille Prior.

Grace Ottenhof contrasts a red dress with a black blazer and pairs the outfit with a pair of suede black wedges. Photo credit: Camille Prior.
Grace Ottenhof contrasts a red dress with a black blazer and pairs the outfit with a pair of suede black wedges. Photo credit: Camille Prior.

Sam in retro-glam. Photo credit: Camille Prior.
Sam in retro-glam. Photo credit: Camille Prior.

Kaliah Barker’s casual ensemble is hit, not to mention her charming smile. Photo credit: Camille Prior.
Kaliah Barker’s casual ensemble is hit, not to mention her charming smile. Photo credit: Camille Prior.

“I come to The Claire Closet because being there gives me a chance to relax and forget about things that stress me out,” Francesca Amarante, a student at Holy Cross, writes, “What I am at the workshops, I feel like I can let go and be myself without fear of judgement or criticism.”
Creating a space for girls to be silly without fear of judgment is a much needed remedy for the seriousness of the image culture. Claire’s dress-up box full of ridiculous outfits – yellow and black striped dresses, a retro-patterned suit, and billowing ponchos – make a joke of anyone trying to look nice.

“Everyone’s different and the workshops are where I learned to embrace that,” relates Kate Cotman, a fellow Holy Cross student.

One girl hesitates a smile as she makes her way down the aisle in DIY apparel. While an image is edited and chosen, in reality we are unedited and imperfect. If we can find that people still accept us in the “real” world – just as we are – there is little more we need to move forward confidently as ourselves.
Thanks to Claire for inviting musicians Alex Mundy and band for a pleasant half-time break, and for coming up with the idea of a silent auction: local eco-artist, Jocelyn Van Wynsberghe, who had some eye-catching colourful paintings sold on recycled canvas!

Alex Mundy and band serenade at half-time. Photo credit: Camille Prior.
Alex Mundy and band serenade at half-time. Photo credit: Camille Prior.