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NEW YORK — Decked out in variations of the little black dress, 14 military servicewomen turned models Wednesday night for the “Salute the Runway” fashion show at the Pavilion at Lincoln Center.
The event, presented by Little Black Dress Wines and Fatigues to Fabulous, served to raise awareness and support for military servicewomen and their transition when reentering civilian life.
Companies such as Carmen Marc Valvo, Tadashi, Michael Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Nicole Miller, DKNY, Tahari, Calvin Klein, Rebecca Taylor, Norisol Ferrari, Betsey Johnson and Mara Hoffman loaned black dresses for the event and styled the servicewomen for the runway. Hilary Rhoda of IMG Models provided coaching and tips on walking the runway, and Bobbi Brown did their makeup. Lauren Hutton went backstage to lend her support.
“I felt like a million dollars,” said Army Sgt. Letrice Titus, a behavioral health specialist. Dressed in a black Carmen Marc Valvo gown with gold trim along the sides, she said, “When I was asked to do this, I thought, ‘I’m a big girl.’ This is size 12, but I feel like size 8. I just feel fierce.”
She was also excited to meet Valvo. “To meet him and for him to fit me — are you serious? I was just in awe,” said Titus.
Kisha Cody, an Army sergeant who is a petroleum-lab specialist, walked the runway in a black Betsey Johnson dress. She called her experience “exhilarating,” and said Rhoda gave her pointers such as “Just be ourselves. Get out there, be beautiful and have fun.”
Retired Army Capt. Leslie Nicole Smith, who is the Fatigues to Fabulous spokeswoman, walked the runway in a short black dress — designed by “Project Runway All Stars” finalist Joshua McKinley — with her Seeing Eye dog and revealing her prosthetic leg.
“There is an overwhelming sense of pride in having worn the uniform,” Smith said. She said the runway experience makes the women feel like saying, “I’m beautiful, and I’m a woman, and I feel so confident.” She hopes to take “Salute the Runway” around the country to give more servicewomen “the amazing experience.”
“This is life-changing. This is the most memorable event,” said Smith. “We do need this awareness. As [female veterans] come back, they need to be recognized for their service.”
Norisol Ferrari, one of the designers who loaned two dresses to the event, said she was overwhelmed with emotion. “Being the daughter of a vet, for me, this is what fashion is about. It’s not about exclusion. It’s about empowerment,” she said.
Launched at the event, the app Shout, which is free to download at the iTunes app store and Google Play, seeks donations to Fatigues to Fabulous, which collaborates with nonprofit organizations such as Grace After Fire, Save-a-Suit and the David Lynch Foundation.