That was the scene at Lee University’s Dixon Center this past Saturday for the fourth annual women’s fashion show hosted by River Worship Center to benefit Mercy’s Door Children’s Homes. The event’s purpose was two-fold, said director Machelle McCulley to raise money and to show women how to express their confidence through what they wear — even when they do not have the money for designer clothes. They could be examples of this year’s event theme; they could be “Captivating.”
Machelle McCulley is a hairdresser and the wife of Pastor Patrick McCulley of River Worship Center, a church based in Delano, Tenn. The church got involved with Mercy’s Door Children’s Homes in Whitfield County, Ga. and soon decided that they wanted to help financially. That sparked an idea to pair her love of fashion with something about which she’s also passionate — helping women of all ages learn to be confident in who they are.
Mercy’s Door Children’s Homes provide housing for children between the ages of 6 and 18. Three homes house children from a variety of backgrounds and is a place the organization hopes will allow children “to heal in heart, grow in character and experience peace of mind.” The organization was founded in 2004 by Paula Malone, who was inspired to help children going through tough times after her own mother was murdered when she was a little girl.
“I’ve seen their homes and wanted to bless them,” Machelle McCulley said.
A few years ago, McCulley got the idea to hold a fashion show that would accomplish fundraising goals as well as the goal of promoting healthy self-image for women. The church decided to hold the event in Cleveland, where it has been for the past four years.
Last year, the event raised about $3,500, McCulley said. This year, the event raised an estimated $10,000 from event tickets and sale of the clothing at a “boutique” set up immediately afterward, more than doubling last year’s successes.
This year’s models included members of River Worship Center and members of the Cleveland community. A few other young women from Cleveland, the Cleveland Middle School dance team, provided dances to entertain the crowd at certain points in the show.
The goal of the event was to teach women how to look their best no matter their income, and the fashion show featured clothing that might not normally be found at a fashion show. Despite the luxurious looks and expensive-sounding brand names attached to the clothes the models showed off to the audience, many of them were purchased for mere single-digit dollar figures at places like thrift stores.
McCulley said she got the idea when she taught women in her church how to shop for fashionable deals after some asked about how she could afford to dress the way she did. The key to having an expensive-looking style on a budget, she said, is to scour clearance racks, thrift stores and yard sales.
“I wanted to teach women how to look expensive on a budget,” McCulley said.
As each outfit was modeled, an announcer describe each one, saying where each piece was purchased and for how much. The prices on some of the items added to the audience’s ooh’s and ah’s.
The event set a record for attendance. All the fashion show’s tickets were sold out, and there was a waiting list for more in case they became available.
“It was by far the best we’ve had,” McCulley said.
The hope is that women with limited incomes will realize that they can still use their fashion to express themselves in ways that showcase their confidence and personalities — regardless of factors like age or weight.
“Fashion doesn’t have to be all about shape,” McCulley said from the fashion show stage. “We can take the fashion industry back. All women are captivating in God’s eyes.”