The terms “purity,” “virtue” and “modesty” don’t come up too often when talking about trendy, modern fashion.
That is, unless you’re a teen girl involved in the Pure Fashion program.
Sixteen students at Pinecrest Academy are participating in this year’s Atlanta area program, which focuses on teaching young women ages 14-18 how to dress stylishly but modestly.
They’ll join about 25 other girls from around the metro area from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday in the program’s Peace, Love and Pure Fashion Show at Buckhead Theatre.
The show benefits Bert’s Big Adventure, which helps needy children in the metro Atlanta go to Disney World.
It’s all part of a national faith-based program that, according to its Web site, encourages teen girls to “live, act and dress in accordance with their dignity as children of God.”
Jessica McLaughlin, a Pinecrest senior who’s been involved with Pure Fashion for four years, said she’s learned much more through the program than just how to dress.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends,” she said. “And I know how to act in any situation.”
This year, she has also learned about teaching others as a leader for a group of eighth-graders in the program.
She said all the girls in the program meet once a month. They have “model training,” during which they learn skills important to the fashion show such as walking properly and having poise, but the lessons also go deeper.
“There’s always a faith aspect as well,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll have prayer and some sort of lesson about being a dignified young woman.”
Other lessons include etiquette and appropriate ways to speak to various groups, as well as the most flattering ways to apply make-up and fix hair.
McLaughlin’s fellow Pure Fashion participant Annie Lagomasino, a sophomore at Pinecrest, said some people are taken aback by teenagers wanting to dress modestly.
“It’s kind of a foreign concept for some people,” she said, but noted that most of their classmates are supportive.
“It’s not weird here,” she said. “Everybody thinks it’s pretty cool.”
Another participant, MK Strom, also a senior, said even most of their male classmates are supportive.
“I guess most people would think guys wouldn’t like it, but here all the guys we’ve talked to about [the program] all think it’s awesome,” Strom said.
But Strom noted that dressing modestly and staying in line with current trends isn’t that difficult.
“Luckily, right now the look is a lot of layers,” she said. “It’s not like back in the early 2000s, when there was a lot of belly shirts and things like that.”
And the girls want to make sure the market continues to provide modest options.
All three girls said one of their favorite parts of the program is something called the “mall mission,” in which they visit retailers and critique the clothing options.
Vivian Heard, communications coordinator at Pinecrest whose 14-year-old daughter Ansley is in the program, said the girls fill out feedback cards on the clothing options and then give them to the store managers.
“It makes them feel empowered to have some say in what stores offer,” Heard said.
Another important part of the program is a weekend retreat where the girls bond.
“That’s really good for the younger girls to get to know the older girls,” Strom said. “They’ll come in really shy, but then they get to know everyone and have more confidence.”
Unlike most modeling programs, physical appearance isn’t a factor.
“We’ve got girls of all different shapes and sizes,” Lagomasino said. “Everyone’s beautiful and the program just helps bring that out.”
Heard said the program has huge impacts on the girls’ lives.
“The younger ones come in and when they see these older girls dressed in these really cute, stylish outfits that are appropriate and modest, they think, ‘Oh this is kind of cool and I want to do this,’” Heard said.
To encourage an even younger following, Pinecrest will hold a Pure Fashion summer camp June 20-24 for rising fourth- through seventh-graders.
“It’s good to lay a foundation early on,” Heard said. “And the camp will be just a lot of fun.”
It’s obvious the Pure Fashion program has made big impacts on the lives its older participants.
“The program has made me very confident in my own skin, and that’s a big problem with a lot of girls my age,” McLaughlin said. “I now know how to handle myself and I’m comfortable talking to people in all situations.”
Added Strom: “High school is tough, especially with today’s media. In this program you can really find who you truly are and know that you don’t have to be what the media is telling you to be.”