I was trying to download some photos from the professional photographer’s website for the Couture for the Cause this past Saturday night. They have some beautiful pics of the event, and a handy “Post to WordPress” feature, but when I tried that feature, it posted the pic without allowing me to add any text.
So I will use the non-professional photos, taken by one John Burrmann, which IMHO are plenty good. See for yourself. He focused more on the people than on the venue, so I will paint a picture in your mind of the stately grounds and lovely estate that housed our fashion show and fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The house is nestled onto a huge lot that slopes gracefully to a private lake. The runway was constructed on the lawn, with chairs around the perimeter and small round tables sprinkled around to allow for casual viewing of the big show.
The show is a big deal. Last year the event raised some $94,000 for the ACS, and I hope this year exceeds that amount. Having cancer survivors model the fashions is a brilliant idea, both because it encourages the audience to dig deep into their pockets, and because it gives us survivors a chance to celebrate life. What’s more important than that after we’ve faced a terrible disease, difficult surgeries, ongoing treatments, and uncertain futures? Nothing. Not one thing.
There were several breast cancer survivors modeling again this year, and we talked amongst ourselves about how many years out we are. There was also a 20-year-old leukemia survivor who’s been in remission for 15 years. One model had brain cancer and is facing another reconstructive surgery next week. While all of the survivors who participated have a different story, we also have a commonality, and it was nice to unite in that commonality for one night and celebrate life.
The amount of volunteer hours and professional time that go into the gig are staggering, and the result is a first-rate production. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks, and being an experienced survivor model I was ready to do my thing. I had the ultimate fun of having two of my dearest friends model with me. Amy and Christy both rallied at my side when the Big C wrecked up my life, and it was such a fun thing to have them by my side for the big event. Unfortunately, the excitement was clouded by sadness from the unexpected death of our sweet dog Harry. Because he died late Thursday night, I made the executive decision to not tell my kids until after school on Friday. It didn’t seem right to tell them Friday morning and send them off to school; I wanted them to have the luxury of grieving in private. I fretted all day Friday about how to tell them. I should have consulted my intrepid breast surgeon, Dr Dempsey, who has honed the skill of delivering bad news to an art form. I’m sure she would have had just the right words. As it turned out, I delivered the news then had to rush off to rehearsal for the show. My head wasn’t quite in the game for rehearsal, and I struggled with the finer points of the runway choreography. The “one and a half” and the “down and back” refer to the way we walk on the runway all decked out in our finery, and while it’s not hard, it took some brainpower to master.
Lenny and Tamra are the dynamic duo who take these fashion shows from cute clothes and accessories to a full-blown production. They pick the clothes for each of the 22 models, add accessories from jewelry to hats to feathered headpieces, design the sets and lighting and choose the music, then orchestrate all these pieces to cohere into the sum total of an amazing show.
We were instructed to show up at 6:00 sharp for our 8:45 pm showtime. Hair & makeup were time-consuming but fun. The show’s theme of the Roaring Twenties was reflected in the intricate hairstyles that featured soft waves and lots of pin curls. Makeup was subdued but included false eyelashes and red-red-red lipstick for each female model. As we went from chair to chair in the war room of hair & makeup, we felt like celebs preparing for a red carpet debut.
After the work was complete in the war room, we hustled to the dressing tent behind the runway. Talk about a chaotic scene. Each model is assigned an assistant called a dresser. The dresser’s job is to help us into our clothes, put on our jewelry and shoes, and make sure we are ready to leave the tent and present ourselves backstage for final inspection by Tamra. No detail escapes her sharp eye, and she is ready with a safety pin to bind a gap, a hairpin to tame an errant mane, and a keen sense of how a headpiece should lay or a scarf should be tied.
There’s not a lot of time to get dressed, and even with our dressers helping, it’s a crazy, crazy scene. In fact, as soon as we left the runway in one outfit, we were instructed to start taking off as much as we could while hustling back to the tent. Getting dressed was even crazier this year because two of my outfits were very light-colored — one white with a black skirt, one ecru with an orange ruffle — so trying to pull them on quickly while not smearing makeup on them was no small feat. My intricate flapper-style hairdo complicated the speed-dressing process, too, as there were 100 bobby pins holding my hair up that needed to be delicately avoided. There’s nothing delicate about a tent full of women and their dressers in the middle of a fashion show. The production assistants were yelling out our names to let us know we were due backstage, and a few male assistants were in the tents, too, making sure we staying on task and on time. There’s no place for modesty in the tent.
The first scene featured black & white fashions and was kicked off by the professional models. These girls know what they’re doing, and they know how to get the show started. This lucky guy got to strut his stuff with one of the pros, Mariah. She and I chatted in the war room and she’s as nice as she is beautiful.
The applause was thunderous, and there was more than one instance of hootin’ and hollerin’ when we took the stage. I only wish I’d channeled some of Mariah’s grace and stage presence when I hit the runway in my black & white outfit.
This isn’t something I ever would have picked for myself, but that’s part of the fun of the fashion show. The skirt was rather short, and the fishnet hose were a bit out there, but it was fun, fun, fun!
The true-blue friend who brushed my teeth in the hospital and mediated more than one altercation with a white-coated professional was utterly transformed into a hot-hot-hot model!
Not only did I have some of my best girls modeling with me, I also had Dr Dempsey struttin her stuff. She did an outstanding job puttin’ on the ritz, and while I enjoyed every minute of modeling with her, I hope she doesn’t quit her day job! (She’s the blond, on the right.)
She told me she had an alter ego on the runway, and now I know that to be true. Being together for this event also gave her the chance to fuss at me for not coming to see her for my post-mastectomy follow-up. I’m a bit behind on that, but I’m happy to report that I went yesterday.
Scene 2 was tangerine-themed, and my one-shouldered dress was super fun (but a little too blousy). The ecru color with the tangerine ruffle was cute, but I’m not posting a pic because it’s not very flattering. It’s my blog, and I can withhold photos if I want to.
The one bad thing about being involved in the fashion show is not getting to see everyone on stage. While these girls were modeling these cute dresses, I was frantically getting out of outfit #1 and into outfit #2.
All the models circled the runway in a triumphant finish. Our faces hurt from smiling, our feet ached from struttin in heels, but our hearts were full of pride and happiness.
Yowza. That’s quite a check. It’s from the Couture for the Cause, which you loyal readers will remember was the premier Fort Bend event at the end of September in which funds were raised for the fight against cancer, and in which yours truly participated in the fashion show.
You may recall the tremendous amount of trepidation I felt toward the event. If not, let me remind you: I really, really, really didn’t want to do it. I had only been out of the hospital a few weeks, and was not in runway shape, to say the least.
However, as with most things we force ourselves to do, in order to stretch our comfort zones or become a better person or whatever reason for the torture, it ended up being one of the absolute, bar-none, best-ever experiences of my entire life.
As much as I’d like to claim responsibility for that huge sum of money raised, the truth is that beyond the $100 ticket that Trevor bought to attend the event, I didn’t have a whole lot to do with it. But next year, I will. Because I will be hounding everyone I know to pony up, buy a ticket, and come to the event. I plan to do the fashion show again, and I expect you all to be there.
In reflecting back on how scared I was to do the show, and how uncomfortable I was in my outfits (but loved every inch of the shoes!), I’m grateful for a whole lot — for having the courage to do it even though I didn’t want to; for having parents who raised me to honor a commitment even though I didn’t want to; for being upright and out of the hospital, not attached to an IV or a wound vac; for the great and true friends who were there that night to cheer me on; and most importantly, for life and the ability to savor it.
Lenny, the director/producer of the event, sent an email the day after the shindig, to the volunteers and models. He wrote something pretty special, and I want to share it:
Please know what a personal and professional experience last evening was for Tamara, me and my fashion team. We love our work in the fashion industry. I am grateful that through the almost 60 – 70 events me and my team produce a year that we are able to help important causes raise awareness and more importantly dollars for worthwhile causes. But the true joy of our work is the people we meet and get to work with along the way. Tamara, me and my team spent all of last night after the show while packing things away recounting very special moments each of us experienced with each of you. We are grateful for those moments and they will mean much to us for a very long time. This event honors and celebrates a special group of people who have experienced or are experiencing cancer. While there are many stories I will share one from last night. One of the models was very gun-shy about participating in this event. She came into the fitting at Tootsies tentative and not all certain about modeling in the show or that we would find anything flattering for her to wear. Her experience with cancer is fresh and current, recently having surgery. During the hair and make up prep period I started seeing how excited she was getting. She especially loved her hair. During the show I remember her beaming as I sent her to walk the plank. After the show she shared what an amazing and fun time she had by modeling in this show and said she would see us next year. And she will.