Southern chic takes the runway at fundraiser for domestic violence services

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A model strikes a pose at last year's Domestic Violence Shelter and Services' fashion show. The annual event--each with a different theme--features clothing from the agency's Vintage Value thrift stores. Courtesy photos.
A model strikes a pose at last year’s Domestic Violence Shelter and Services’ fashion show. The annual event – each with a different theme – features clothing from the agency’s Vintage Value thrift stores. Courtesy photos.

If you live below the Mason-Dixon Line, it’s quite possible you possess an affinity for a pretty pastel hue, a string of pearls and a little seersucker swagger.

Those signature southern styles are among the trends taking the runway during this year’s Domestic Violence Shelter and Services’ 24th annual fundraising fashion show. With the 2016 theme “Southern Chic,” the event is slated for Friday, April 1 at Hilton Wilmington Riverside, 301 N. Water St. There will be two chances to watch the catwalk during an 11 a.m. luncheon and a 6 p.m. dinner.

The upcoming show will feature everything from traditional prep to more elegant attire, tidy bow ties to bigger-than-big floppy hats, backyard barbecue wear to garden party glam – with some bridal vogue thrown in the mix. But a unique personal touch has been added to the drapery, and it’s not a monogram–every item in the show has been plucked from within the shelter’s Vintage Values thrift shops.

“It’s great to see the different variety of clothing and fashion we have,” said Lauren Daley, director of development and operations for Domestic Violence Shelter and Services. “I don’t think people realize what all we have in our stores.”

That’s a good reason to put on a runway event, Daley added. In addition to being one of two major yearly fundraisers for the local non-profit, she said the fashion show serves to raise awareness of both the organization’s work and its reliance on thrift store profits.

Domestic Violence Shelter and Services opened its first Vintage Values in 1986 on Castle Street. That original store remains today and there are now two additional locations—one along College Road near UNC-Wilmington and another in the Monkey Junction area.

Together, the stores’ sales account for 33 percent of Domestic Violence Shelter and Services’ operating budget, Daley noted.

“So, that’s a third of our budget. That income coming in is huge for us,” she said.

While it offers an emergency shelter, which is open around the clock, seven days a week, the agency also helps clients get on the path toward empowerment through court advocacy, group counseling for adults and children, sessions focused on self-care and money management and temporary financial assistance for protective measures, like changing the locks on a home. In 2015, Domestic Violence Shelter and Services served 1,300 people in Wilmington and the surrounding area.

Considering the major role Vintage Values plays in Domestic Violence Shelter and Services’ outreach, Daley said it doesn’t hurt to shine a spotlight on the sometimes surprising finds hidden within store racks and on the shelves.

In addition to one-of-a-kind retro pieces and name-brand modern designs for men, women and kids, the shops—stocked completely through donations—carry a wide variety of household items, décor and knick-knacks, among other finds.

The fashion shows feature male and female volunteer models of all ages, shapes and sizes.
The fashion shows feature male and female volunteer models of all ages, shapes and sizes.

A runway team has been scouring the stores ahead of the fashion show to put together the winning looks, which will be worn by 20 volunteer male and female models of varying ages, shapes and sizes.

And fashionistas in the crowd can snatch up an outfit or two right off the runway, if they are so inclined. All clothing in the show will be for sale onsite, and Daley said a “pop-up shop” will have a selection of non-apparel thrift shop merchandise available for purchase. There will also be a silent auction, with items like a perfume gift set from Belk, artwork, Carolina Panthers memorabilia and a necklace from Reed’s Jewelers up for grabs.

Lunch will be a fresh and light spring-inspired salad topped with grilled chicken and fruit. For dinner, the Hilton will roll out a southern buffet with staples like mac and cheese and fried chicken. The luncheon kicks off at 11 a.m., followed by a noon runway show. Dinner is also served an hour prior to the models’ entry.

In the “fundraising world,” Daley said, it can be challenging to keep the momentum going with an annual event, which is one reason Domestic Violence Shelter and Services picks a new theme for the fashion show each year. But she said the longstanding event has a loyal base of supporters, no matter the motif.

“We do have a lot of people who come back year after year,” Daley said. “We have people who call and ask when it is and what the theme is going to be. It’s a great way to support the organization and the victims.”

Tickets are $45 for lunch and $55 for dinner, with tables of eight available for $400 and $500, respectively. They are available at The Open Gate – the public center for Domestic Violence Shelter and Services at 2901 Market St.  – as well as on the agency’s website.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.

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