A-line skirts; tapered waists; simple sheaths; muslin, taffeta and lace – these fashion mainstays never go out of style, as was evident at the Cherry Creek Republican Women’s third biennial Vintage Fashion Show held Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Red Lion Hotel in Aurora. Held to raise money for the club, the fashion show featured outfits spanning nearly a century of style, with clothing from the 1890s to the 1980s.
“Each one was different and it was fun,” said Andi Allott, 1st vice president-membership of the CCRW and one of the main coordinators of this event.
After an 11 a.m. social hour, during which attendants sipped wine and champagne while perusing the silent auction items up for sale, the group gathered around large tables decorated with faux pearls and pictures of vintage models to enjoy brunch during the fashion show. CCRW President Candy Figa and Allott kicked off the event by introducing several notable attendees, including state Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial, who later participated in the show by helping the models down from the runway, and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, who gave a few words before the show began.
To the soft sounds of a string quartet, several dozen members of the CCRW modeled an array of outfits, from formal to casual, including wedding attire, party dresses and outerwear. Several distinguished models included Centennial Mayor Cathy Noon and Centennial’s Mayor Pro Tem, Stephanie Piko.
Cathy Noon, mayor of Centennial,
looks regal in a 1979 pleated lavender
evening dress, originally worn as
a mother-of-the-bride dress at
Tracy Chapman’s wedding.
“The women who are elected officials volunteer to model and are delighted to participate if they are available or are in town that weekend,” Allott said.
Gayle Novak looks ready to
party in a 1980s taffeta cabbage
rose-patterned party dress with
a high-low hem and bouffant sleeves.
Highlights of the show included the very first model, CCRW member Tracy Chapman. Her Victorian ensemble was one of the oldest displayed and consisted of a sumptuous, blood-red velvet jacket with full leg-of-mutton sleeves and a cream lace neckline in the back. She paired the well-tailored top with a long black linen skirt adorned with diamonds above inverted pleats spaced around the circumference of the dress. Chapman carried a small red purse to complete the outfit.
Chapman appeared several more times, carrying off each walk with extreme poise and style. Several other models made repeat appearances, including Gayle Novak, CCRW member and owner of the Summit Steakhouse in Aurora. Her favorite outfit was a 1980s party dress of cabbage rose-patterned taffeta. The dramatic puffed sleeves, tight bodice and high-low hemline gave a vintage “Carmen Miranda” air to the dress. Novak said after the show that she was honored to be chosen as a model among all the other politicos present that day. Her husband Ed, though he enjoyed the event, admitted with a laugh that he was mostly there for his wife.
Arguably the most classically elegant was a trio of “little black dresses,” modeled by Cathy Noon, Tracy Chapman and Linda Tweedy, whose 1980s Oscar de la Renta sheath and Kentucky Derby hat made a dramatic statement.
If these women were the most elegant, the least elegant – but most ‘aw’-inducing – were three grandchildren of CCRW members dressed in adorable vintage wear, including two children’s coats, a muffler in the shape of a cat and a ‘50s Davy Crockett button-down.
“This was the first year we had children model,” Allott said. “The three children were very well-behaved and will probably do it again.”
The afternoon ended with a series of wedding outfits, including a shorter black number, a gown with a six-foot ivory satin train, and a 1973 “prairie-style” bridesmaid dress worn by former Colorado first lady Frances Owens. The very last dress, a sequined ‘80s wedding gown with a daring slit up the side of the skirt, elicited a gasp from the crowd when model Stephanie Piko turned to reveal a plunging back, outlined by a stylish cowl. Allott said the wedding attire was unique both in the individual materials and construction and in the number of decades they came from.
“We tried to put more wedding dresses in it this time because in the past that was what the members asked for,” Allott said.
A few articles of the clothing came from The Treasured Scarab (25 East Dakota Ave., Denver), a vintage fashion store owned by CCRW member Syrma Sotiriou, co-announcer with Allott. Sotiriou drew chuckles from the crowd at the mention of her “Republican discount.” But most of the clothing came from private collections of the CCRW members, adding a personal touch to the show as many models were wearing either their relatives’ clothes or those of another CCRW member’s relatives.
The premiere CCRW Vintage Fashion Show took place in 2009 and has been occurring biennially ever since as a fundraiser for the women’s club. Allott said the original idea was to have a regular fashion show, but a vintage fashion show seemed more unique. Not only that, but Allott’s parents conveniently never threw anything away, thereby amassing a wealth of vintage clothing to kick-start the show.
“As a child, I was told that these clothes were a reflection of history. I had many much older cousins who sent their clothing to my family so ‘the little girls’ could play in them,” she said. “My mother had the sense to preserve the clothing as she thought the dresses were too beautiful for children to play in them.”
Allison Arnett, CCRW treasurer, also had access to her family’s vintage clothing, and the two women collaborated on turning the idea into a reality. With three well-attended fashion shows completed, it’s clear that the combination of classic fashions, tasty food and good company is a hit.
Though she doesn’t have the final tallies for this year, Allott said that in past years the fashion show has raised a good amount of money for the CCRW.
“It’s been a profitable fundraiser,” she said. “It’s profitable, it’s fun and it’s unique.”
So unique that when the CCRW ran a smaller fashion show at the Colorado Federation of Republican Women’s spring board meeting/convention in March, it caught the eye of another member, the first vice president of the National Federation of Republican Women, also a candidate for president of the NFRW.
“She is from California and loved this particular idea for a fundraiser as it was so unusual and asked if I would write a script and lend her the vintage clothing for a presentation to the National Federation of Republican Women’s national convention in Louisville, Ky., as an example of creativity and ‘thinking outside of the box’,” Allott said.
With the show still a vivid memory, Allott already has some ideas for how to tweak the 2015 show to make the experience more seamless and just as pleasing to the audience. While this year’s event showcased jaw-dropping wedding dresses, next year’s collection will include more evening attire and ball gowns, she said.
“We keep fine-tuning it each time,” she said.
See the Sept. 27 print edition for full photo coverage.