Modeling for a cause

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

On most days, they’re busy working or volunteering — many of them mothers and wives, all getting through their very productive and busy lives.

On Wednesday night, Dec. 4, however, those 20 women became fashion models who walked the runway in front a large, cheering crowd.

All the women are customers of Helen Ainson, a women’s fashion boutique in Darien. The ladies glittered, shimmered, and shone as they showed off the latest styles the boutique carries. Everything being modeled is for sale at the shop.

The event, which lasted about 90 minutes, was the fifth annual Toys for Tots Fashion Show. It benefited Marine Toys for Tots, a charity that distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas.

All attendees were asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy or donate $40 and a toy would be provided by the Darien Toy Box.

Bill Jensen, owner of the Toy Box, was bartender at the event, serving hors d’oeuvres and wine.

One by one, the women walked from one end of the store to the other, modeling their clothing in front of approximately 50 guests.

The models

While current music played in the background, the models paused in front of a mirror, twirled around, and showed off all the features of their outfits.

Sales manager Suzanne Griffin provided detailed commentary.

“I selected these outfits for the women,” said Griffin, of Branford, who has worked at Helen Ainson for over 20 years.

The guests applauded and took photos.

The models wore a mixture of casual clothing and evening wear — “everything from raincoats to casual jeans up to evening gowns,” said owner Erica Jensen.

Many also had on custom-made, coordinated jewelry that is also sold at the store.

Prior to the show, each of the models had her hair and makeup done by Andrew Stefanou Salon & Spa in the Goodwives Shopping Center.

Aside from Darien, the models came from surrounding towns including Norwalk, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Trumbull, and Stamford, as well as from Manhattan, N.Y.

The fashions

Griffin said she made sure each woman really loved what she would be modeling.

“With a fashion show, I always want the person to wear something that they feel great in,” Griffin said. “I want that magic of you feeling fantastic. It needs to give you a thrill.”

As far as color, she said pink really looks very good on everyone “because it lifts the pigment from your color.”

She added that color is dictated by a person’s eyes.

Versatility is great to consider when selecting clothing — “something you can you wear both to the office and out for a drink,” she said.

Griffin added jeans are still very much in fashion, for all kinds of occasions.

One of the models wore jeans with patches sewn into them, along with black ankle boots and a black leather jacket.

“Jeans have taken on a whole new world of their own,” she said.

Jeans can have extra details, she said, such as “a little bit of sparkle or a fringed edge.

Griffin added that they can be worn with a dressy or a lace top, and can be rolled up and cuffed.

She spoke about the popularity of yoga jeans, which are for sale in the boutique. “They have a fit trim but they are very giving so you can move around in them,” she said.

Some of the models wore wraps, which Griffin said is helpful when avoiding drafts.

“When you walk into a house or the car from outside, it’s helpful to have your shoulders covered,

Much of the clothing the models wore are washable, Griffin said.

Since many women travel for work, it’s helpful if they wear clothes that can go into the wash, as opposed to dry clean only. The women may not have the time to get to a dry cleaner.

Also, she said it’s a lot healthier to be able to avoid all the chemicals that are used in dry cleaners.

Darien resident Carol Wilder-Tamme, who watched the fashion show and has modeled for it in the past, said it’s a always “a fun night and it’s such a good cause.”

“The outfits are all fun and pretty,” she added. “It’s fun to see the new fashions and I think Toys for Tots is such a good cause to donate to.

Wilder-Tamme did have her eye on one specific item she saw a model wearing, which she plans to put on her Christmas list. “There is a simple satin v-neck black top and it would go with everything over the holidays,” she said.

Season of giving

Each year the Toys for Tots Fashion Show has been held, Helen Ainson usually receives about $1,500 to $2,000 worth of toys.

Some guests have given up to $100, said Erica Jensen, the shop’s owner.

Jensen said she chose the Toys for Tots charity at this time of year because “It’s nice that children always have a toy at Christmas,” she said.

The event also provided an opportunity for the models and guests to mingle and get to know one another, Griffin said.

Power of clothing

Griffin told The Darien Times that clothing makes a powerful statement.

“It can change everything,” she said.

She advises all women to focus on enhancing their natural assets and and best features.

“All girls come in beautiful packages. Some have longer legs, some have shorter legs, some have longer necks, some have long arms,” Griffin said. “All women, no matter what her shape or size, have positive attributes they can accent when choosing what clothing to wear.”

Getting the chance to be in a fashion show puts a smile on everyone’s face, according to Griffin.

“They feel fantastic. They get all dressed. They are just feeling great and confident, and like a princess,” she said. “It’s a fun night for everyone.”