It’s Saturday night in March and there’s a pulsating glow spilling from the windows of the Root Room in Carnegie Building. Inside, rows of spectators line the perimeter of a long narrow stage. Oberlin’s most anticipated fashion show begins as cheers swell when models, draped in creative attire, take their turn down the walk. This is a signature event during Black History Month. It also serves as inspiration for this week’s photo series.
Oberlin’s Black History Month (BHM) fashion show provides participants with an opportunity to express and celebrate themselves and their beauty. The show is also meant to be an inclusive space that rejects the norms and traditions of the fashion industry in regard to what body types should be.
Because next year’s show is typically inspired by the previous year, planning begins soon after the last model has left the stage. In reviewing the recent show, committee members discuss what worked and what didn’t, and general ideas for next year’s show are also noted. Planning momentum picks up shortly after fall semester begins.
A theme represents each BHM fashion show and often reflects the attire models will demonstrate. In 2018, Sankofa Remix’d: Reclaiming My Fly featured African-influenced clothing. In 2020, Look Black At It: 50 Years of Fashion gave audience members a glimpse at some of the unique styles that influenced the fashion industry and the nation during the last 50 years. And in 2021, models adorned pillows, hazmat suits, and sleepwear for Quarantine Couture. This year showcased models in a variety of African-influenced prints and formal styles in BLACK LIFE RELOADED.
And as with every BHM fashion show, audience members not only cheer for fashion, but for the students, faculty, and staff wearing it. This year, about 34 Oberlin community members strutted the walkway.
“It’s an event where students representing many parts of campus participate,” explains Candice Raynor, director and faculty in residence of Afrikan Heritage House. “Whether it's modeling or performing, you have both the conservatory and the college, student-athletes, performing arts students, STEM students, visual arts students, and mixes of those groups participating.
“I think the event is popular because it's a fun and an interesting way to celebrate Black History Month and Black cultures at Oberlin,” continues Raynor. “There is always a lot to be learned from the show as far as Black culture and Black contributions to fashion and pop culture in general.”
We continue our photo tour with a secret marriage in Hall Auditorium, a benefit for Ukraine at First United Methodist Church of Oberlin, art study in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, poetry reading at the ‘Sco, a historic wintery win for the men’s lacrosse team at the Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex, and finish with a kickboxing class at the Patricia ’63 & Merrill ’61 Shanks Health and Wellness Center.
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