YOUNGSTOWN — The fashion merchandising class at Youngstown State University is preparing to head indoors for 2022 for its EveryBODY fashion show.
It’s the 10th anniversary of the nonprofit event aimed at raising awareness for eating disorders, said Jennifer Frank, who teaches fashion merchandising at YSU. She said the first show took place in 2013 following the untimely death of Danielle Peters, 22, of Austintown, a student in Classes. She was loved by many who at the time did not understand what she was going through, Frank said.
“It’s the 10th anniversary of Danielle’s passing, and we’re planning different things than previous shows,” says Frank. “We don’t want to give too many details – you have to come to the show and see what happens.”
Danielle suffered from bulimia, a disorder involving distorted body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight. Those who suffer from it often overeat, then feel guilty and induce vomiting, purging or fasting.
The show was started by Priscilla Gitimu, who also teaches in the fashion department, to honor Danielle’s memory and raise awareness about eating disorders. The show has continued every year except in 2020 when the pandemic caused a lockdown. Last year, the fashion department took the runway outside so she could continue. The show also received support through a special endowment.
“We started this endowment fund after his passing to raise awareness of the hardships and fatal consequences of eating disorders,” Danielle’s mother, MaryAnn Peters, said. “I am grateful to everyone at YSU who works so hard every year to put on this show. I am involved with NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) and try to take a walk with them every year. It is so important to me to honor Danielle’s memory in this way every year. Danielle would like her story to help other people.
Pandemic concern remains as the show date approaches.
“COVID is once again a concern this year, but we are taking every precaution to provide a safe and fun event for everyone who participates and attends the fashion show,” says Frank. “We work closely with the health department and follow all university policies.”
This year’s show will take place April 13 at 6 p.m. at YSU’s Beeghly Center. Doors open at 5 p.m.
Frank said some local retailers are supplying the clothing for this year’s show.
“We don’t sell fashion or make money from this show,” says Frank. “Our one and only goal is to help raise awareness for body positivity. We hope everyone walks away feeling strong and beautiful. Our message is that beauty isn’t defined by the size of your jeans, it’s is defined by what is inside your heart.
She said nine students from this year’s fashion show production class were helping set this up. Students are very aware of what is happening with eating disorders and how the fashion industry seems to focus on being thin.
“In the design aspect, it’s no secret that the fashion industry is made for thin people”, YSU student Maddie Fessler, who grew up in Minerva, said. “Often, plus size clothing has not been designed to fit bodies of that size. Rather, it is a smaller size made proportionally larger without regard to the appearance, the cut or how someone will feel.
She said on the EveryBODY show that the goal was to strive for representation of all body types.
“I feel like it’s the most important thing in the fashion industry to recognize different body types,” she said. “The fashion industry is arguably one of the most influential industries, especially given the accessibility of social media. Someone can easily be swayed into thinking they have to look a certain way because what he sees on social media platforms.
“This show is extremely important. Self-esteem and body image issues are not to be taken lightly,” Fessler continued. “The message this show sends is that everyone’s body is beautiful and deserves to be recognized as such. Too many people suffer from an eating disorder, and there is a stigma around getting help for that. This fashion show aims to reduce that stigma and connect people with the help they deserve.
YSU student Muhammad Khan agrees with the need to recognize all body types and give everyone a chance to feel good about themselves.
“I believe almost everyone goes through the eating disorder phase at some point in life, but it’s up to them not to adapt to it,” he said. “Myself, at some point, I was disgusted with my body and I started starving to have a perfect body. But I realized that it was not the right way and by doing this, I cause more damage to my body.Today, I still don’t have the perfect body, but I’m working on it the right way and I’m very confident.
He said bulimia is a serious disorder and he thinks the industry should change in order to save lives.
“Each industry should recognize different body types,” he said. “But in (the) fashion industry, it’s very important and necessary for every designer, from low-end to high-end, to understand that the world is not just full of skinny people. Runways are for everyone and it is very important to accept any body type.Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and forms.
He said change is needed in fashion around the world.
“I come from south-eastern Pakistan, full of suburban communities where beauty and the perfect body are also emphasized”, he said. “A lot of people in my community also have eating disorders because the review rate is so high… It’s like people living in 2022 with a 1900s mindset. Not everyone is perfect , not everyone is fit, not everyone has great skin, not everyone is fashionable, but everyone is human. Different from each other in personality, which sets them apart from others. That’s the message I try to spread in my community, but again, it’s about the majority against the minority.