My favorite part of the show is being able to be there on Ladies Only Night when some of the Arabic women let their carefully guarded beauty be seen by everyone there, including western women like me. The first year I went was almost too much to comprehend. There were an unbelieveable amount of sequins, cleavage, make-up, and hair-sprayed hair sculptures. I thought I had walked into a convention of . . . well, there is no way to put it delicately, so I won't. I have heard that the Qatari weddings are similar only on a grander scale with women dressed to impress each other, and the display of immodesty is almost shocking. I guess they look at these functions as their only public opportunity to "let it all hang out" and everything certainly does. I guess that is why the security for the evening was very over-the-top and our mobile phones and cameras were confiscated as we entered the door. My purse was searched more thoroughly there than at any airport I have been through!
At the beginning of the 2009 show it was announced that there were a few male models that would be coming out during the evening. The audience groaned with disapproval. Everyone was told that there would be fair warning and they would let us know before each section to give the ladies time to cover up. When it happened the first time there was a flurry of quick shayla and abaya placement before the male models made their entrances. Then the announcer got careless in the next section and forgot to mention the entrance of two more male models. You should have heard the gasps, small shrieks of surprise and horror as the Arabic women threw on their black coverings. Some women were incensed, and I thought for a minute there would be a mass exodus out the door, but when the Fashion Design Department Chair Sandra Wilkins came out and apologized for the mishap, the ladies settled down enough to make it through the rest of the collections.
Well the 2011 show was very different because first, the side show was tame in comparison to that first year I attended. Women took off their abayas but there was more modesty and more toned down outfits, hair, and make-up this time. Arabic women are so beautiful and I have always thought it a shame that they seem so determined to cover their natural beauty up with products, but that night there were some real goddesses there.
Another change was the collections themselves. The guest fashion designer was Bongiwe Walaza from South Africa and her collection was magnificent. There were pieces that regular women might be able to wear, that is if we could afford them. The guest model for the night was Tatum Keshwar, Miss South Africa 2008 and she was beautiful!
The student collections that followed were similarly appealing. A lot of the pieces were relatively modest and somewhat conservative, in a flamboyant sort of way that is. The fabrics were tailored, lacy, elegant, and glamorous. Can you say shoulder embellishments?! One designer, Khaltham Daham Al-Kuwari, designed for and dedicated her collection to Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser. She said, "Her role as a strong and empowering first lady, especially when it comes to creativity and knowledge, has inspired me to push my innovative boundaries to create a wardrobe fit for a queen."
Some of Khaltham Daham Al-Kuwari's designs
Dana Elhaj Ahmad, one of Brett's former students, had a very nice collection too. She based it on the suspenders and combined the opposites of structure and draping for her fashions. Interesting. Some items from the sophomore collection were downright laughable with hoodies for men made out of fake neon pink/yellow/green fur - icky! I wish I had pictures of all the collections to show you but you can see some of them on the VCUQ link I have included above.
Rhonda and I had an entertaining evening and enjoyed the beautiful nibbles at the reception afterward. We mingled with the models, designers, and VCUQ faculty like we were movie stars and even posed with one of the models for a picture outside the gigantic VCUQ main door. I am hopeful that Rhonda will send me a copy of that because I would love a pictorial souvenir of our moment when we both felt fatter than fat standing next to a size 0 youngster like her. Another adventurous part of our evening was when I got lost on the way home, but I will save that story for another post when I discuss aging related challenges. Don't miss that one. It is bound to be a snoozer!