First Christian Church Prom Dress Resale continues to grow

Every time a person carried a dress down the stairs at Zion Lutheran School, Cathy Vance witnessed the magic.

“I just love it. It’s such an exciting time. It’s so fun.”

Vance volunteered with the First Christian Church Prom Dress Resale since it began, watching the growing success each year. After outgrowing the church basement in the first three years, 2016’s event filled the Zion Lutheran School basement in Palmyra.

Nancy Goellner, First Christian Church fundraising chairman, got the idea for the Prom Dress Resale during a trip to a similar event in Monroe City with her oldest daughter. After pitching the concept to fellow members of the church, the event began with 100 dresses. The sale soared to include more than 270 dresses in 2015.

“Just judging by tonight, I think we’re going to exceed that,” Goellner said.

Now in its sixth year, volunteers accepted dresses for the resale, talking with each participant about whether the dress was a donation or would carry a price tag with a firm or negotiable price. Dresses will be accepted from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29. The sale will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Zion Lutheran School. Goellner said participants would receive money on Saturday if the dress sells, or they can take the dress back if it remained on the rack.

The dresses spanned a seemingly endless array of sizes, designs and materials.

Nancy Goellner, fundraising chairman at First Christian Church in Palmyra, checks dresses in for the sixth annual Prom Dress Resale on Thursday, Jan. 28.picture: year 10 formal dressesA multi-hued rainbow of satin, chiffon and knits.

By 7 p.m. on Wednesday, dresses lined the racks for proms, winter formals, the Jack of Hearts dance and pageants.

The prices ranged from free to about $200. Many of the dresses were worn once, and they often carried a price tag with half the original cost or less, Goellner said. Some people donated dresses, which Goellner said would be free or very affordable.

“You want to help the girl find the right dress, the perfect dress,” Goellner said. “We’ve had a lot of smiles over the years.”

Tina Seago carried 15 dresses in for the resale, nine of which were prom dresses from her two daughters. Seago said her daughters bought dresses at the event in past years, and she noticed people come from all over the area for a “great community service.”

“The nice thing is the price,” Seago said. “They’re going to be priced affordably.”

Carrie McKinney started volunteering a couple years ago, cherishing the interactions with fellow volunteers from the church and all the people who come in. And everyone brings in endless beauty through their donations and sales.

“My favorite memories are when the dresses come in,” she said. “They’re beautiful. It just makes you want to try them on yourself.”

And that’s just what volunteers Ruthie Carpenter and Emily Goellner did, with each of them showing off a select dress. Emily Goellner said she might purchase a dress at the sale for herself. Nancy Goellner pointed out that 10 dressing rooms would be available during the sale.

She invited people to bring friends and relatives to the event, which raises funds for First Christian Church in Palmyra. This year, volunteers are raising money to install new carpet in the church sanctuary. Throughout the evening, people filed in to help the cause.

Heather Sharpe came in with six dresses from her daughter and niece. Madison Cottrell, Brenlynn Sharpe and Rylan Sharpe were close by. Sharpe said they sold one dress last year at the resale, which brought a positive impact to people in the region.

“I really like that there’s something like this around in the area,” Sharpe said.

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ECHS dress code detailed

The personal appearance code at Edmonson County High School is as follows:

•All students should be clean and neat in their dress and personal appearance.

•Any clothing or lack of clothing that is considered indecent and/or distracting, as determined by school administration, will not be allowed.

•Students must wear shoes.

•No clothing or accessories shall be worn with pictures or writing that is considered to be in bad taste, indecent, vulgar, offensive, distracting (including certain apparel from Hooter’s, Joe’s Crab Shack, etc.) or that promotes the use of alcohol, drugs, tobacco or any illegal substance.

•No see-through clothing and no bare midriffs/rib cages/backs are allowed.

•Hats, caps, head coverings or sunglasses should not be worn in the building while school is in session.

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•Shorts, skirts and dresses must be no more than 6 inches from the floor while kneeling. Also, holes in jeans, pants or the above-named apparel must be no more than 6 inches from the floor while kneeling. This 6-inch rule will apply regardless of leggings, hosiery or other undergarments worn with shorts, skirts and dresses. Pajama pants and yoga pants are prohibited. Tights and leggings CANNOT be worn as standalone garments.

•All tops (shirts, blouses, dresses, etc.) must measure no less than 3 inches at the narrowest point across the shoulders. No shirts with ripped out, cut out or torn out sleeves will be allowed.

•Tops (shirts, blouses, dresses, etc.) cannot dip below a line formed between the right and left armpit. There is to be no visible cleavage

•Clothing or accessories are prohibited that are commonly understood to convey hatred, contempt, prejudice or have the effect of insulting or stigmatizing another individual (i.e., Confederate flag, etc.)

•Chains that are attached to purses or wallets or worn as belts are prohibited. Dog collars or large chains worn as necklaces or bracelets are also prohibited.

•Loose, baggy clothing or clothing with large pockets deemed inappropriate or unsafe is not allowed.

•Facial piercings containing loops, spikes and bars or any other facial piercings that can be deemed a safety risk are prohibited.

•The second violation of the dress code will result in a one-day assignment to A.E. (in-school suspension).

•Students need to be aware that dress code is in effect when entering the building until exiting the building in the afternoon. Dress code applies to students that, for any reason, are exiting the gym and shop areas as well.

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Malone Souliers shoes stand for sheer luxury

The creative tentacles of an individual often get rolling on doing something that simply involves his or her diehard passion for it whilst still accepting challenges — let’s say someone who never backs down. It sounds a bit eerie to even envisage that prospect, however this is the face of raw reality we live under today. In fact, this is how big luxury brands in fashion are born by making sure day and night that they aren’t out of the picture for a split second and their patrons are always happy giving them what they really are look for.

On the road to becoming one such prime name to be reckoned with in fashion industry is the new found luxury shoe brand “Malone Souliers” by Mary Alice Malone, co-founder and its creative director and Roy Luwolt, her influential business partner as well as managing director of the company.

Together they have changed the spectrum of what kind of shoes an elite group of women would love to match and wear with their dresses if given the choice.

I am sure by now you all must be curious to know more about this great brand that seems to be turning the tables. With this in mind, I sit down with them to find out what led to the birth of it and how well the overall journey has turned out to be.

Initially, the sport that the Pennsylvanian-born Mary Alice played like a truly reigning champion was horse riding. She was so good at it that she got selected to participate in the Junior Olympic Equestrian Team at a young age. While it had nothing in common with what she was about to get into in her later life, the one thing she routinely loved doing was the act of creating something elegant. “I’ve always loved the tactile notion of creation and from the tradecraft of furniture making I was part of, I found the craftsmanship of cordwaining— two disciplines that oddly but naturally converge,” she says.

Having discovered what she really wanted to do, she went on to study the inimitable Cordwainers Course at London College of Fashion. As Mary Alice did with all her heart, she learnt quite vital lessons over there.

“Interestingly, it taught me as an artist how to color outside the lines. As a student you’re taught the academic rules; the do’s and don’ts, and deep down I believed our professors wanted to somehow equip us to know how best to do things so we can find out for ourselves how to do them the right way,” she says. “It was all about carving out your own path uninhibitedly. What more could be fulfilling in hindsight!”

file-26-1453655344980907400.jpgpicture: cheap formal dressesIn the league of high-end shoe brands battling it out, it’s no surprise that any new product entering the market must have an edge factor to survive and stand out effortlessly. And Malone Souliers surely does and makes no excuses about it. As Mary Alice explains, “Our brand was founded on the ethos of particularity; from meticulous development of shape, size and color to the upmost millimeter. A finished luxury good, generally speaking, insists on every detail, visible and invisible. Simply said, we are addicted to doing good things the hard way.”

While working on her designs, Mary Alice likes to navigate her way beyond the confines of inspiration in order to achieve the much anticipated outcome. “We love to design starting with the three dimensional creation of the shoe and then onto two dimensional concepts of that shape,” she says.

Picking colors for her collections is a crucial part of the brand identity on the whole. More or less, the color factor is the soul of her creations. “I did study as a colorist and for us at Malone Souliers it certainly informs the shapes, lines and silhouettes. So you might say it’s simply indispensable,” she says.

The other winning paradigm of Malone Souliers shoes is their comfort level which never gets short of being mentioned time after time. So it really is of huge importance for Mary Alice to capitalize on when she says happily, “We’re often told that our heels tend to be the most comfortable one might find around. This is the best testament to our insistence on architectural shoemaking practice, which, despite heels, demand comfort as a direct result of specificity. After all, luxury is anything but discomfort.”

That’s why some of Malone Souliers’ signature lines especially the likes of Savannah, Dawn, Maureen, Montana, Veronica and a handful more have remained on top, demonstrating a timeless consistency all the while. Seeing celebrities like Solange Knowles, Lupita Nyong’o, Jemima Kirke, Kim Kardashian and Blake Lively wear their brand makes Mary Alice and Roy feel proud of what they have accomplished. “We find it very humbling that they have so many attractive choices to choose from. With it comes another challenge that surely can’t be overlooked; they seem to perpetually demand more quickly than we can deliver. But we try our best to cater to their orders as and when possible,” the duo proclaims. “Overall, this gives us immense pleasure and that’s what we are here for. In the end, our goal is to make a place in the hearts of lots of really beautiful celebrities.”

The popularity of Malone Souliers as a luxury shoe brand today also owes to the amazing team that makes it up and understands its goals. “The secret behind our brand gaining so much attention is solely linked to the excellent skills of our craftsmen who are diligent, tenacious veterans and for some reason choose to stay and work with us. Besides, me and Roy constantly tussle over the issue of who is responsible for the success of the brand; he would say it’s me and I would say it’s him,” Mary Alice laughs.

It’s never easy to launch new merchandise internationally. Anything unexpected might happen. Nerves quickly trickle in while making sure everything goes as planned. Even Mary Alice felt the same way. “Yes I was entirely insecure about how things will pan out. In fact I still am, however coupled with my partner Roy Luwolt we had afforded ourselves a couple of years of preparation both in design and business prior to launching the firm. As a result from day one, we had vowed to learn from our mistakes and in fact corrected them, an attentive practice we ardently continue to date,” she says.

There is always an element of inspiration in every person’s life that he or she attributes for their overwhelming success. For Mary Alice, there have been a handful of women who seem to have played a key role in the making of her career as it has — her mother, Mary Alice Malone Sr., her intimate hero, Denize Morrison, CEO of Campbell’s Soup, her personal mentor, Ruth Chapman, her most womanly idol. “Besides, there’s the other non-woman I spend most of my frightful adventure/life with, my business partner, Roy Luwolt and it’s full of twists and turns,” she says. “I just adore them.”

Facing constructive criticism from their families regarding the work they do has only brought betterment in them. “It’s not that they don’t love or support us. They do but constantly demand our best,” Mary Alice says adding that fashion is merely regarded as a wild entity in their society.

She chose London over New York, Paris or Milan to settle down and launch her brand for good reasons. “There are two critical aspects to our establishment in London. The first being the locational advantages of international supply chain and trade, and the second; every bit as important is the culture of exquisite craftsmanship, borne of the legacy men have long enjoyed thanks to the city’s high-end shopping paradise, Savile Row & Jermyn Street. For the first time ever, we aim to convert that to the benefit of women,” she says.

More so, her partner is sure about everything to go well as they make progress. As a matter of fact, what he likes the most about Mary Alice is her purity as a designer unaffected by trends or commercial pressure. “This great quality is and will always be most important to us. Usually, that’s where the real action takes place,” he explains. “The rest automatically falls in place.”

As for her own style statement, Mary Alice delves into a world bound with limitless possibilities yet standing still to do what she dreams of. “I just cherish the freedom of laziness; I love to be happy therefore I’m comfortable in whatever I wear, be it formal, casual, experimental or ridiculous. Altogether it’s mine.”

And the bohemian spirit of Mary Alice as it comes alive when she is on holiday is what makes her designed shoes so captivating. “We don’t get to take many holidays having the appetite we do, but fantasies say Cuba, Cabo and Columbia,” she quips.

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We report on the blood

It’s the moment every actress dreams of: seamlessly gliding from limo to red carpet, perfectly honed body squeezed into a breathtaking couture gown, instantly sending the paparazzi wild, the fashion press into a frenzy and topping best-dressed lists the world over; with the bonus of emerging at the end of the evening clutching the greatest accessory of all – a golden Oscar statuette.

Equally, a fashion faux pas on one of the biggest nights in the entertainment calendar can send a star’s image rocketing around the globe for all the wrong reasons, faster than you can say, ‘Sack the stylist!’

Julia Roberts’s hairy armpits moment, anyone? Björk as a swan? The night Angelina Jolie’s leg pose went viral? Jennifer Lawrence’s trip up to the podium? Don’t even get me started on Madonna’s cape.

Björk dons a swan back in 2001; Angelina Jolie in 2012 wearing her now legendary leg-flashing Atelier Versace gown

Yes, I defy you to remember who actually won an award that night, but we can certainly remember the dress disasters.

The red carpet is the new fashion runway, and never have the stakes been higher than during awards season – the ‘big three’ being the Golden Globes, which took place earlier this month, the Baftas (14 February) and the Oscars (28 February), with scores of other ceremonies, premieres and glamorous parties sandwiched in between.

Right now, a host of A-list names will have been examining locked Pinterest boards, attending secret fittings and spending hours instant messaging their awards-season (not-so) secret weapon – their stylist. And there is nothing a stylist won’t do to get it right on their client’s biggest night.

An anonymous insider reveals how one stylist ‘called in every yellow designer gown out there to ensure her A-list client would be the only one wearing canary yellow on Oscars night.

Jennifer Lawrence’s Dior malfunction in 2013picture: formal dresses online australia+13

Jennifer Lawrence’s Dior malfunction in 2013

‘The gown was a huge hit and went down in Hollywood history, elevating its wearer to the next level.’

But why are the fashion stakes so high on awards night? Bronwyn Cosgrave, fashion historian and author of Made for Each Other: Fashion and the Academy Awards, says: ‘Essentially it’s about money.

‘At the turn of the millennium, make-up, jewellery and shoe brands all started following fashion at the major film events – from Cannes in May all the way to the Oscars the following year – because there is always a red carpet and it’s a great scouting ground for celebrity ambassadors.

‘After successful outings, women such as Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Helen Mirren and most recently Lupita Nyong’o were approached to front campaigns for brands including L’Oréal and Lancôme.

‘This led to stars needing a setup behind the scenes involving publicist, manager and agent to appoint a good stylist who would make sure their celebrity had a strong, cohesive image all the way through awards season.

‘In the end, whether or not they have won any actual awards, there are lucrative beauty contracts, and that is an alternative economy in Hollywood.’

Get it right or, even better, dare to rewrite the rules by wearing an attention-grabbing hue and pulling it off – such as Lupita Nyong’o’s stunning powder-blue Prada gown at the 2014 Oscars, which made her the queen of that year’s best-dressed lists – and your position is sealed for ever in the Hollywood hall of fashion fame.

Halle Berry in Elie Saab on her 2002 Oscar-winning night

‘The smartest campaign over the past few years has undoubtedly been Lupita,’ agrees Bronwyn.

‘She was manufactured as an overnight sensation. Her stylist Micaela Erlanger came out of nowhere and from the Toronto Film Festival to the Oscars, Lupita turned up on every red carpet and never put a foot wrong.

‘She was paired with hip brands such as Miu Miu, she wore shorts on the red carpet and a rainbow of colour – all with aplomb.

‘It’s no surprise that she landed two U.S. Vogue covers the following year, elevating herself to Gwyneth Paltrow’s level.

‘That didn’t happen by coincidence; it was a campaign on the part of her publicist and stylist, in collaboration with Lupita herself.’

But what if a star doesn’t possess a natural eye for fashion? Who can forget the pre-stylist years, when actresses generally dressed themselves for big events – with mixed results?

Scandal’s Kerry Washington dared to dazzle in mid-length Marc Jacobs at last year’s Emmys, while Oscar-winner Julianne Moore wore sequined Chanel couture

‘Demi Moore had some clangers back in the day,’ Bronwyn recalls.

‘Such as when she wore cycling shorts to the Oscars in 1989. But sometimes even stylists get it wrong.

‘I never think green is a good idea – Scarlett Johansson wore green to last year’s Oscars, and it was a difficult colour even for her to pull off.

‘Another mistake was Anne Hathaway’s pink Prada dress at the Oscars in 2013 – it was a last-minute decision not to wear Valentino, but the gown was too prim and the necklace was a disaster. Shortly afterwards she changed her stylist.

‘There’s huge pressure on these actresses. They take advice from people such as Vogue’s Anna Wintour on who should dress them.

‘No Oscar contender or presenter can possibly be without a stylist these days unless they’re very brave indeed.’

Green goddess or faded in jade? Scarlett Johansson split opinion in Atelier Versace at last year’s Oscars

In fact, so terrified are they of making a mistake on the red carpet that some actresses have actually studied fashion to ensure they don’t put a Louboutin-clad foot wrong – Kerry Washington being one.

‘Looking fantastic is part of her job,’ Bronwyn says of the Scandal actress.

‘So she did her homework and educated herself, rather than wait for someone else to stuff her into a dress. And it paid off. She always looks sensational.

Rosie Nixon’s The Stylist is about a budding stylist given the chance to dress a Hollywood star

‘Remember the Marc Jacobs dress she wore to last year’s Emmys? Having the confidence to wear a mid-length dress at a do like that is a big deal.’

Others, such as Halle Berry when she won the Best Actress award for Monsters Ball in 2002, wearing an embroidered sheer Elie Saab gown, ‘looked through hundreds of dresses and would have been keen to know if an actress in her category was likely to wear the same designer.

‘You won’t see two nominees wearing the same brand,’ says Bronwyn.

So what is the ultimate Oscars gown?

‘You can usually tell a winner’s dress at the beginning of the night,’ Bronwyn reveals.

‘It will be heavily embellished or embroidered – sequins never wrinkle so gowns are often covered in them – and it is a podium dress, so there will be a piece of adornment at the neckline or around the shoulder to create interest in just the right spot.

‘Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren and Kate Winslet have all followed this formula.

‘Ultimately, the dress should have a sense of dignity and convey to their peers and members of the Academy that the wearer is proud to receive that honour.’

Dream gown sorted, it’s then time to pray to Mother Nature for no errant gust of wind, rain-sodden red carpet or overly polished steps to the podium.

Bring on the awards season fashion parade for 2016!

In this exclusive extract from Rosie Nixon’s debut novel The Stylist, budding stylist Amber Green is given the chance to dress one of Hollywood’s hottest stars…

The car door swings open and bright white lights flash before my eyes, blinding me for a few long seconds. Flash! Flash! Flash! Like a firework has been let off at close range. I wait inside the car while she makes her big entrance. Getting out of a blacked-out limousine in an exquisite, glittering gown complete with vertiginous heels is no easy task, even for a seasoned pro. Knees together, swivel hips, feet on the ground, smoothly push up, rise gracefully, straighten gown and SMILE! A thunderous cheer erupts around us as she emerges – ta-da! – a Hollywood goddess in the flesh. Then come the voices.

‘Jennifer! Jennifer!’

She is under siege. Paparazzi shoot off hundreds of frames, their faces hidden behind the long, prying lenses of their black state-of-the-art cameras. When they get too close to this tall, shimmering beauty, the minders rush in to hold them at bay.

‘Hey, Jennifer!’

‘This way!’

‘Give us a smile!’

When the flashes subside, I tumble out of the car, dart hastily round it and slip through the entrance, flashing my invitation pass. I crouch down at the side of the red carpet, beside the cold metal crowd-control railings, and sink into the shadows, desperate to keep out of sight. But I’ve been rumbled. An autograph hunter taps me on the head and shoves a glossy photo in my face. ‘Hey! Can you get this signed by Jennifer?’

Another pleads in my ear: ‘Ma’am, ma’am, do you know her? Can you get her to come over?’

Others join in, like a chorus of extras. I pretend not to hear, taking my eyes off her for only a few seconds; time enough to pull down the hood of my grey towelling sleepsuit. I’m so tired and embarrassed I almost want to laugh.

Jennifer makes her way along the carpet, spreading pneumatic glamour. She poses for photos with admirers, and an explosion of air kisses ensues. She signs autographs, using the black marker pen I have learned to keep in my kit.

Soon we are being ushered along the red gauntlet, to reach the main bank of paparazzi. Time to make my move. Pouncing out of the shadows, I dash to the corners of her skirt, pulling down layer upon delicate layer of pure silk scarlet organza, embellished with shimmering beads and tiny sequins that catch the lights, sending sparkles in every direction. It is breathtakingly elegant.

‘Jennifer! This way!’

‘Over here, Jennifer!’

The cries are more urgent now. This is the main photo opportunity.

The paps are penned five deep. She takes her time, moving elegantly this way and that, adjusting her pose slightly with every click. It’s second nature now: right hip lifted, left foot crossed over right, enhancing the natural curve of her body; right shoulder pushed back, chest out, but not too far; left arm on her left hip bone, right arm hanging behind to create a slender profile. Head held high to elongate the neck, face turned to the right to present her best side, chin raised just so for a youthful jawline, belying her 40-something years (she stopped counting at 39). She is textbook perfect.

‘That’s it, love, nice big smile for the camera!’

‘This way!’


I look up. Both hands are on her hips now, slender silhouette perfectly shaped by the internal corset. It’s such a timeless, romantic, pure Hollywood look. She moves on, gliding down the carpet, a beautiful swan. On to the bank of waiting press and TV crews. I shuffle back against the railings into the shadows cast by the hazy early evening sun.

‘Mind out, you’re standing on my cables!’ a small angry American man shouts to my right.

‘Sorry, sorry.’ I inch out of the way. Then I lose my footing, stumbling backwards, and a Japanese woman elbows me in the ribs.

‘Hey! Watch it, miss. You almost lost my sound!’

Aargh, jet lag. I should be asleep by now. More bright lights. This time microphones are being thrust in her face, a barrage of questions thrown from all sides.

‘Jennifer, you look stunning tonight! Who are you wearing?’

‘Is it couture?’

‘Did Mona Armstrong style you?’

‘Can you twirl?’

‘How much are the earrings worth?’

‘Can we get a close-up of your shoes?’

‘Were you influenced by the style of your character in the film?’

And repeat. Over and over again, for entertainment shows from Boston to Beijing and everywhere in between. Finally we reach the entrance to the Dolby Theatre. As Jennifer is swept into the auditorium to deafening applause, thousands more flashbulbs and ear-splitting whoops, I make my exit wondering how I ended up in this circus, in a slightly smelly onesie.

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Dr. King, Is this Our United States of America?

”If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward”–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all

These aforementioned words speak so many volumes to me being a proud American citizen and a proud African-American man. I have to say that I am beyond proud to be an American, I love the United States of America, I love the people of this great land, the land of the people of all nations and races; this is the land of those who inspire and aspire to not only dream but do the impossible. The United States is just that, united. Land where my fathers died, land where my ancestors sacrificed their lives, identities and even their freedom to strive to live and be the American dream. This land is truly made for you and me.

On January 18, 2016 The world gathered to honor a man that has truly marched to the beat of his own drum. Dr. King’s life and legacy is true to the essence of showing the world that the United States of America can be the place where everyone can be equal and free; where justice is for all; where this country remain true to its purpose, being United.

As much as I love my country I cannot deny the reality that I am an African-American man and that my color is seen before my character, my intellect. I carry within me the blood of legends who fought, sacrificed died in the name of Freedom and the promise of the American morals, values and principles. It’s sad that I have to admit that no matter how I appear (whether in formal, business-casual, casual and even street attire) I will be seen as a statistic waiting to happen in the eyes of those who still see me as a threat yet inferior.

But, in essence of all of this, I have a problem and I am sure that many of my fellow Americans can see this; how in 2016 are we still showing and displaying contradictory acts and principles before the entire world to see? I would have never thought that with my own eyes I would see racial injustices be nationally televised and no action takes place to resolve these issues that are deeply affecting the American values and principles of liberty, freedom and justice. If you don’t believe me, look at the year 2014; where 2 African-American men were slayed down by law enforcement officials; one of which was seen clear as day from a footage from a cell phone and no indictment charges were presented to either of them. So much for ”justice for all.” We don’t even need to repeat what occurred in 2015, from Sandra Bland, to Tamir Rice to countless others who were slain by the abuse of power that law enforcement officers used and while they are still walking free, families of those slain have to deal with a pain unimaginable.

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We love in a society where the jury is not selected among its peers; where the people are afraid to hold true to the statement ”NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW”. We live in a society where on the globalized media communications system, African-Americans are still seen and portrayed as vicious, ignorant, ghetto and low-class citizens. Where people like Don Lemon who represent the African-American community downplays their efforts in protests and have a disgust for the communities he covers, where the National Guard and local law enforcement come in full battel gear to keep those communities off the streets from protesting, yet at the same time a white militia can take over federal property (which is treason in its highest form) and not one soldier of the National Guard has been deployed to apprehend them. What hypocrisy is this America?

It truly pains my heart that we live in an American society where for the 2nd consecutive year in a row, the Academy Awards have nominated no African-American nominating actors, actresses, best director and all other important roles that make a great film. We are living in an American society where still in the year 2016, our own citizens whom are supposed to believe in one nation under God, still have women clinching their purses whenever an African-American man walks in an elevator; where, regardless of how one dresses, whether in business or urban attire is still seen as a threat to society when all they are trying to do is live their American Dream.

If Dr. King and his roundtable of justices [Harriet Tubman, Mary McLeod Bethune, Malcolm X, Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, Ella Baker, W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Richard Allen, Adam Clayton Powell, Marcus Garvey] were to sit and analyze how the United States of America is today, they would be utterly disappointed.

Thomas Jefferson said it best: ”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We as Americans should take this principle to the highest level and respect, for we should understand the importance of living in a land that provides us so many opportunities that many countries throughout the world do not.

Look at our Congress, why is it that throughout our country’s 239-year history, only 9 African-Americans have served as U.S. Senators, 11 Hispanic/Latinos have served as U.S. Senators and 46 Women have served as U.S Senators? I am fully aware of the historical context throughout the times where there have been courageous Americans who were not afraid to show that they deserve an opportunity to represent the people; but in today’s society, why must one ”wait” for the right opportunity or have that fear that they shouldn’t run because they are afraid that the people aren’t ready for change or something new?

In 2016, as a proud Patriot of this land, this is not how America should be. The key word in the United States of America is supposed to be United, yet there is more division politically, and economically than I have read in my history books. Is there a solution to this problem, this great contradiction? Yes, there is and its really simple: The American people must understand that time shall change regardless if you want it or not, we live in a land now where a generation of people are not afraid to challenge the status quo and are not afraid to proudly represent who they are and love their country; therefore, it is our obligation to support them.

For those who desire to run for public office and you have the gift and passion to lead and win the hearts and minds of the people, do it! Never be afraid to take on that opportunity when it is presented to you; become that agent of change and hold true to the principles of our great country that we believe in. Communities, I urge you to come together and put away the differences and do your duty to hold our elected officials accountable in ensuring that they uphold their sworn oath, the law and their vision to make your communities a better place. Learn your history, understand your history, and share your history. Always hold on to the principles of this great country called the United States and with those principles establish your own that will coincide with the fundamentals of freedom justice and equality.

Now is the time that we take care of our own communities and be extremely active in the political process that shows our strength as a people, that we remove those who infect our communities by introducing violence by killing, robbing one another; that we invest in businesses that employ and cater to the people within our communities; that we come together to uplift and encourage our children and young adults who are striving forth in their educational or vocational journey, where we assure them that they can be anything they want to be; that we no longer downplay our skin because the globalized media don’t accept it, to be proud to be Black and that our lives absolutely matter because you can’t say all if one is constantly under attack.

Never be afraid to break down those walls, the glass ceilings and any other obstacle that will stand in your way of pursuing your life, liberty and happiness in the U.S. for this land is truly made for you and me. This is our time to show it. Let freedom ring. The dream is yet to be fulfilled. Let us march on until victory is won.

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English Prep School Changes Uniforms to Recognize Trans Students

Brighton College, a top private day and boarding school in Brighton, England, is making sure its dysphoric or transgender students are as comfortable as possible.

From now on, there will be no mandatory gender distinctions in uniforms, as the school will allow its students to choose between wearing a blazer, tie and trousers or a skirt and bolero jacket. The change to the 170-year-old dress code reportedly came after a small number of families approached the school about the uniform rules, reports the BBC.

Last year, U.K. activist Elly Barnes encouraged boarding schools to adopt gender neutral uniform policies in order to avoid discriminating against LGBT students. This plan takes a different tack by keeping the ”gendered” clothes, but recognizing that skirts or pants don’t belong to one gender.

English Prep School Changes Uniforms to Recognize Trans StudentsThe Guardian reports that at least one pupil at the Brighton has already taken up the option, and several others have asked about it. The school appears to be standing by the landmark decision, telling the Guardian that it was merely ”reacting to a changing society which recognizes that some children have gender dysphoria and do not wish to lose their emotional gender identities at school.”

According to England’s National Health Service, gender dysphoria is defined as a condition where a person experiences discomfort related to a difference between their biological sex and assigned gender. (It is not the same as being transgender and is not related to sexual orientation.)

The school’s move comes at a time when students in the U.S. and across the pond are raising issues with the highly gendered state of school uniforms and dress codes. Last year in the U.S., there were several instances of American girls taking to social media to complain about being sent home for modest-looking clothing, and to speak out against seemingly sexist standards they face.

Brighton College, which is co-ed, is a seriously prestigious school — it was voted the best U.K. independent school of the year from 2013 to 2014 and is literally old-school (170 years old). Yet a sentiment that has picked up steam in the fashion industry — where runways and collections are now celebrating a gender-free future with clothes that are gender neutral or worn with zero regard to gender — seems to have trickled down. After all, it’s young people who are most on board, as 14-year-old actress Rowan Blanchard told Elle last year, ”It’s cool and it’s refreshing and it’s fun that boys can wear dresses, isn’t it?”

Even the headmasters over in the U.K. feel the same, it seems.

”If some boys and girls are happier identifying with a different gender from that in which they were born, then my job is to make sure that we accommodate that,” the school’s headmaster, Richard Cairns, told the Guardian. ”My only interest as headmaster is their welfare and happiness.”

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Windsor’s special-needs ‘Prom 16’ coming to Mayacamas Golf Club this year

It’s a night on the red carpet, with spotlights, photographers, Oscar souvenirs and more. But the special people in attendance won’t be there for the Academy Awards.

Less than a week after Hollywood has its annual gala, Prom 2016, a party for special-needs students, is being held at the Mayacama golf club for those who don’t ordinarily get to the dance.

It’s the third year in a row that Windsor High School students have organized a prom for special-needs youth. But for the first time, the venue is the ritzy, private club in the gated community in the hills east of Windsor.

The March 5 event is organized by several Windsor High students under the mentorship of Cindy Cahill, whose daughter Victoria organized the first prom in 2014, when she was a senior.

Victoria, now a sophomore at San Diego State University, was inspired to stage the event by her brother Justin, 22, who has severe autism.

About 150 special-needs students from Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties, ranging in age from 14 to 26, are expected to be there. With caretakers, dates and relatives, attendance is expected to swell to 250.

“It was so awesome the first year,” said Ciara Johnston, a Windsor High senior helping to oversee this year’s party along with classmates Riley Smith and Cassie Howard.

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This year, instead of a church meeting hall as they used for the past two years, organizers were able to get Mayacama as the setting with the help of club member Pat Dugan.

“We wanted to make them feel special. It’s fancier,” Johnston said.

Word of the prom has spread with the help of the Sonoma County Office of Education.

It’s free to attend. But to make it happen, money is raised for food, including light appetizers and desserts.

Corsages and boutonnières must be made. Prom dresses and men’s dinner jackets, ties and tuxedos need to be found. And hairdressers have to be enlisted. It takes a lot of organization and work from a team of volunteers.

Lights, a DJ and a photo booth all need to be arranged, either through volunteer labor or via donations collected for an approximate $3,000 to $3,500 budget.

Those who want to help — bakery items, hairdressers and a photo booth still are needed — can call 889-2526.

“It it is a ton, ton, ton of work,” Cindy Cahill said, adding that it is well worth it.

“These kids have the time of their life. There’s no complaining, no drama. Everyone’s having fun,” she said. “They talk about it all year long: ‘When is the prom?’ They’re so excited.”

Even students who don’t have dates can be sure someone will be there to dance with them, or they can jump into the conga line. No one sits on the sidelines.

“There’s a smile on everyone’s face,” Johnston said.

The students might have autism or Down syndrome. Wheelchairs are welcome.

Even a prom king and queen will be chosen in a random drawing.

Cahill said special-needs students don’t always get treated well at school.

“Kids can be cruel,” she said.

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Japan students fashion way for abused Indian women to pursue independence

A group founded by Japanese university students has worked to help Indian women who fell victim to human and sex trafficking achieve independence through fashion and styling.

Last September, the Japanese group, dubbed Mode for Smiles, organized a fashion show in the northeastern Indian city of Kolkata in collaboration with a local organization teaching sewing to victims.

“Our purpose is to bring positive changes within the women,” said Fumika Date, 24, a graduate student at Hiroshima University.

Date created the support group in March 2014, as she learned after several trips to India that many women there struggled with physical and sexual abuse and being unable to earn a livelihood.

She incorporated fashion into the initiative after discovering Indian nongovernmental organizations providing those women with sewing training to help them become independent.

Date contacted some 20 organizations based in New Delhi and other cities, asking if they were interested in helping to organize a fashion event.

picture: semi formal dressesBut negotiations were tough, with most responding negatively that it was not realistic to involve women who are basically poor and illiterate.

Yet a year later, one NGO based in Kolkata called Destiny Foundation sympathized with Date and agreed to co-host the event.

Mode for Smiles asked sewing schools in Hiroshima and Onomichi, a city also in Hiroshima Prefecture, to produce dresses to be worn at the fashion show titled “Make a Smile.”

Among the 29 costumes were traditional Indian saris made with fabrics usually used for yukata casual Japanese kimono and a formal kimono called uchikake.

To protect their identities, women who were victims of exploitation worked backstage as stylists selecting bags, scarves and other accessories they produced for costumes they picked. Local students modeled instead.

Some 150 people, including officials from international organizations and fashion magazines, gathered to see the show held on Sept. 26, according to Date.

The women told Date they were happy to see the items they made showcased on stage.

To fund the project, including costs to rent a venue, Mode for Smiles undertook crowdfunding on the Internet.

“What’s important for a students’ group is to keep our motivation high, I believe,” Date said. “I hope the success of this event will give a boost to our future projects.”

Mode for Smiles currently has about 15 student members who are interested in fashion design and helping developing nations.

The group plans to hold a similar fashion event in India in September next year.

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Couture Closet’s Lauren Montgomery Talks Wedding Dress Shopping

This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of Louisville Bride.

Lauren Montgomery is the owner of the Couture Closet Bridal Boutique in downtown LaGrange, Kentucky, at 123 E. Main Street (hours). She has some tips and tricks for Louisville Brides shopping for the perfect wedding dress!

Is there an ideal time before the wedding that a bride should start dress shopping?

“We recommend to start shopping around a year out from your wedding date. That way, if you find something you love, then you have something huge checked off the wedding to-do list. However, if you are having a hard time finding something, then you still have a few months to browse. We tell our ladies the bubble to buy your gown is nine months to a year out. This will put you in great shape to start alterations at the appropriate time.”

If a bride wants to bring friends and family members along when shopping, is there a number of people you would suggest? How many opinions is too many?

“The bride knows which of her family and friends are opinionated or not and she knows herself and how she reacts to people’s opinions. So it’s not necessarily the number of people that join you, but rather who is supportive and listens to you. Opinions can be tough to handle, but in the end, if everyone is respectful, then it is fine to have a larger group. However, if you want a good number, we find two to three people work best.”

picture: short bridesmaid dressesHow can these friends and family members be helpful during the dress-shopping process? Or not helpful?

“Friends and family can be extremely helpful, and they can be on the complete opposite end of the spectrum too. To be helpful is to listen to the bride. To share opinions lightly. Never push for a specific dress, unless she asks, as it needs to be the bride’s decision. Don’t go hating on a dress that you can tell she loves. All the negative words and opinions voiced out loud can never be erased.”

How much shopping time should someone plan on when they go into a store?

“We allow 90 minutes for a bridal appointment. We do everything by appointment here, so we have to stick to our 90-minute schedule, however, we have noticed over the years that it seems to be the perfect amount of time to shop, decide and purchase a wedding gown.”

What kinds of shoes, underwear, bras or accessories, if any, should brides bring?

“Brides do not have to bring anything; however, a strapless bra works great, and if you plan to wear Spanx, then bring those too. Brides will be with a sales associate in the dressing room so they should be mindful of that. If they are super-modest they should wear something that covers them up a bit more, but honestly, we have seen it all, so undies are a must and a bra is nice but not entirely necessary.”

Are there any other dress-shopping preparedness tips you have?

“Just be open-minded. It’s great to come in with ideas, but we encourage you to not have your heart sold and set on a specific dress style. Sometimes brides do not look good in what they have envisioned, and it takes a long time to accept that the old idea might not work anymore.”

What would you say the average number of dresses brides try on is?

“At our store, eight to nine dresses. Sometimes that is all a bride ever tries on. Some brides will go to two or maybe three shops and try some on there too, so we would say around 20 gowns total for the average bride.”

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The Importance of Playing Like a Kid

It’s a cold Saturday, my husband’s at work, and my two children and I are holed up in the house.

We break out the play food that the girls’ aunt made for them. I’m blown away by these handcrafted, wool-felted pieces — pepper rings, pepperoni, a burger, jelly, bread, buns, pizza sauce, two kinds of cheese, bologna, pizza crusts, watermelon, a dill pickle, bow-tie pasta, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, mustard, ketchup, and many more items surround us as we sit cross-legged together on the living room floor.

The baby especially likes playing with the tinier foods — the little black olives and mushroom slices for the pizza are her favorites. She says ”nom, nom, nom” as she holds them close to her lips, and pretends to chew.

My oldest daughter loves watching cooking shows. She carries spatulas, pots and bowls from the kitchen into the living room and mixes and creates, along with her favorite TV chefs.

She now expertly crafts watermelon sandwiches and double-decker pizza slices. She giggles and looks out of the corner of her eye for my reaction when she places her current obsession — yellow mustard — onto the play pizza as well.

Then we pick up, and we have a real-life snack. Snow appears through the window in spurts. I’m hoping that my husband will be home soon, so I’m hesitant to leave, even though the girls are clearly needing a change of scenery.

Instead, I get a wild idea to break out the dress-up clothes that I bought for my oldest daughter probably two years ago — before the baby was even here with us.

One morning, when my daughter was in school, I dashed from a yoga class to JC Penney. I’d never been in the store before, so I quickly hunted for the little-girls Disney section; my daughter’s school pick-up time fastly approaching.

I bought four dresses and three pairs of shoes. Glitter was all over my yoga pants as I piled this giant, puffy bag into the passenger seat of my Jetta and excitedly drove over to get her.

2016-01-17-1453044308-605607-12469412_10153425652500197_3671279032395584350_o.jpgpicture: bridesmaid dresses australiaThis Saturday, I found them at the top of her closet with the tags still on. She never got into playing princess dress-up. I stealthily look through this bag of clothing, trying to peek at the sizes and not get her interested in something that likely will no longer fit. I silently praise my earlier intelligent purchase — all of these dresses were too big at the time, but now they are exactly her size, or just small enough to still squeeze into.

I take the dresses out into the other room, and my girls’ faces light up. My oldest reaches out in awe for the Rapunzel dress. She immediately starts taking off her outfit so she can step into this sparkly choice. Her ecstatic expression makes my heart pound. The baby, however, is incredibly upset that nothing is in her size. She begins to cry.

I dash back into the bedroom, and then into the kitchen, and then I finally find her Halloween pumpkin costume haphazardly thrown onto the dining room buffet, from the last time she had wanted to randomly wear it. She wipes fat tears from her tiny cheeks, and grins hugely, reaching for the orange costume.

My husband didn’t arrive home from work for another few hours. In that span of time, we had changed into almost all of the dresses, and the girls had, at one point, added hats. I couldn’t find the shoes.

By the time he walked in the back door, it was as hushed and as quiet as possible, because the baby had gone down for a nap, and my oldest was watching Tangled in her Rapunzel dress. (She would turn away from the television to say, ”Thank you, Mommy,” every now and then.)

He walks into the house and ooo’s and aaaah’s with complete sincerity at our daughter in her dress-up clothes. He goes to the one place that I hadn’t looked, and brings out three pairs of sequin-covered shoes to an exuberant, beaming child.

She alternately wears two pairs that miraculously still fit.

At the end of this day, not much was different from most others.

There were moments when I felt my temper rising, and I walked into another room to take a few breaths. There were poopy diapers, goldfish crackers on the carpet and smoothie mustaches. There were two little people showing me how ginormous their personalities already are through creativity, imagination and semi-contained attempts to show dominance.

Serving watermelon sandwiches and bow-tie pasta with black olives, in a green Princess Merida dress, might not get me nominated for any best-mother awards, but I felt like our cozy, artistic day was an indescribable success.

At school, they will learn to perfect letter writing, and how to read and count. They will get their feelings hurt, and they will ask if classmates can come over to play. They will be taught, above almost all else, that life is filled with different kinds of people and experiences.

At home, we work on learning, too — but later, as I sit down with my husband once the girls have gone to bed, I tell him that imagination is something I want to encourage my girls to never lose.

My husband is a scientist — that’s his day job. I’m a writer. Creative ingenuity is paramount in many careers, and we discuss this over dark chocolate squares and wine, while football lights up the TV behind us instead of Brave.

I feel like a great mom because I spent my weekend afternoon playing with my children–I marvel at how invigorated and alive I am for simply immersing myself into the minds of two tiny kids.

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