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Pure Fashion unveils genuine taste

Erin Crawford 04/24/2008 14:17
Activities for young female members of Pure Fashion include etiquette lessons, salon makeovers and understanding the definition of beauty.

Activities for young female members of Pure Fashion include etiquette lessons, salon makeovers and understanding the definition of beauty.

Lizzie Carey, a home-schooled senior from West Des Moines, said her friends were taken aback by the title of the organization she joined last year.

Pure Fashion.

"Oh," they'd respond, wondering about that first word - "pure" - and whether Carey, 17, was about to start wearing high necked blouses and floor-length skirts.

But local members of the national Catholic-affiliated organization said the group is more about supporting inner beauty than covering up outer beauty.

Their efforts to embrace their bodies and show off their assets - modestly, of course - culminates with a fashion show at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in West Des Moines on Saturday.

The event will adhere to the organization's guidelines about showing skin:

- Shirts can't be lower than four finger-widths below the collarbone.

- Skirts shouldn't be too form-fitting and should be no shorter than four finger-widths above the knee.

- All styles should flatter the figure, but not draw extreme attention to any certain area.

The focus is on giving girls the tools to feel positive about their bodies.

"People clench at the term 'modesty,' " Carey said. "But we're just trying to help people dress tastefully.

"We live in a world where girls are so, in a sense, pressured to look a certain way or have the perfect beach body. What I like so much about Pure Fashion ... is the focus isn't 'You need to be modest and cover yourself.' (The focus is) realize how important you are because you're yourself."

Stephanie Becker, a mother of four, helped start the Des Moines chapter of Pure Fashion after hearing about the group through an affiliated religious organization, Challenge.

"I've always worked with youth and feel the need for the direction in these youth and helping them to understand the truth," Becker said. "They have so many struggles with self-esteem, and Pure Fashion teaches them where their true dignity lies."

Pure Fashion isn't about avoiding mainstream fashion.

Rather, it teaches the girls to work with it. Go ahead and buy that low-cut sweater, but buy a long tank to layer with it.

"You'll find appropriate things and not appropriate things in every store," Becker said. "It's a matter of how you piece that together. What Pure Fashion tries to do is help girls to understand they can find fashion. They just have to work with it."

When Carey showed her mom photos of other chapters' fashion shows on the group's Web site, the photos surprised them. "The Web site has pictures from other fashion shows, and my mom said she wouldn't have even guessed it was a purity fashion show," Carey said.

In its first year, the Des Moines chapter of Pure Fashion attracted 20 participants. Some groups in larger cities have as many as 80 members.

Activities have included etiquette lessons, an overnight retreat focused on inner beauty, a fashion design contest, a question-and-answer with college-age Christian men about what attracts them in a woman and a salon excursion where the girls received a makeover.

"The show is icing on the cake to take what they learn and become role models," Becker said.

Elizabeth Nahas used the fashion show to fulfill a long-term goal and design a dress. Her drawing of a fuchsia gown with a sash created from fabric she dyed by hand won the fashion design contest. The dress is being made by a local designer. Nahas chose it to be her prom dress at West Des Moines Dowling Catholic High School. "My dream job would be a designer. I've always loved designs and colors."

Nahas, who has always participated in activities, made time for Pure Fashion because the group combined two of her favorite things: religion and designing. But she said the best part was a comfortable setting to make new friends.

"Pure Fashion is more of a relaxing (activity)," she said. "You get to meet a bunch of new people, including some home-schooled girls."

Pure Fashion member Trinh Le, a senior at Des Moines North High School, said she'd been influenced in the past by "the media's definition of beauty."

She said Pure Fashion has made her more comfortable with herself. She even calls the group feminist.

"One of their goals or objectives is to reinvent the definition of beauty, and I really liked their definition," she said. "Respecting your body and making sure everybody does the same."