Dressed to Impress and Protect Our Planet
One writer takes a look at the recent success of Fashion Et Cetera’s Spring fashion show and their push for sustainable clothing.
As the first days of May in Hanover bloomed, flowers were draped from the ceiling and grass mats lined the floor of Collis Common Ground, transforming it into a scene from a mythical garden for the Fashion Et Cetera Spring Fashion Show on May 3. Swirls of colorful lights shifted above the stage, and students sat on all sides of the catwalk constructed for the event. Some audience members held champagne flutes in their hands while others clapped. 42 student models walked down the catwalk in vibrant oranges and delicate whites, open-front shirts and plunging dress necklines.
The show’s theme was Gardens of Babylon. According to Joshua Vorbrich ’24, a Fashion Et Cetera board member, the theme inspired the show’s aesthetic and decorations.
“Gardens of Babylon is a reference to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which are one of the seven wonders of the ancient world,” he said. “We’re trying to incorporate these airy, mysterious and botanical elements into our aesthetic choices.”
Sina Wrede ’24, an exchange student from Germany who modeled in the show, said the experience was “really exciting.” She was one of the 42 students selected from the campus wide nomination to model for the show.
“I’ve never modeled before … I was nervous, but as soon as I went out, there were so many people laughing, screaming. It was really fun to wear nice outfits,” Wrede said.
Wrede modeled two pieces for the evening: a fiery red dress and a shimmery, floral gown.
“I’ve never seen such an event, especially in a university setting,” Wrede said. “It was very impressive.”
Sheba Dance Group opened for the models, dancing dressed in Babylon-esque blues, pinks and whites. However, Fashion Et Cetera’s visionaries had much more in mind than just a beautiful spectacle.
“We have two big-picture ideas we’re trying to address with this show: sustainability and diversity,” Vorbrich said.
With most of the items rented from Rent the Runway or thrifted, the event sought to show Dartmouth students a sampling of sustainably-sourced items. Featuring mostly diversely-owned brands at the show, Vorbrich emphasized the potential for change from Fashion Et Cetera’s stylistic choices.
“Dartmouth students spend over $10 million on clothing each year, actually, so we are hoping by introducing them to sustainable options and minority-designed brands, we might be able to redirect some of that spending away from fast fashion and mainstream labels,” Vorbrich said. His statistic comes from data collected from the National Retail Foundation, which reports average spending at $181 per student per month. He multiplied this average by the undergraduate student population and adjusted for inflation.
Erika Huston ’26 attended the fashion show and reflected that the show made her rethink spending money on fashion.
“I think showcasing diverse brands gave me a chance to think about where the money I spend on clothes really goes,” Huston said.
Huston also thought about how Sheba’s performance added to the experience of the show.
“It was magical to see dance combined with fashion all in one show.” Huston said. “It makes fashion — which I’ve always thought about as an art — feel like more of a performance. I guess I didn’t think about outfits as [emotionally] moving, but they really were.”
Fashion Et Cetera’s history as a club goes back to founder Kathryn Kurt ’23 and her freshman winter in 2020.
“When I first came to Dartmouth, there wasn’t a fashion club,” Kurt said. “I had a passion for fashion and style, and I knew it was my calling to start it, which I did my freshman winter.”
Kurt is also responsible for founding the club’s Instagram, where they showcase Dartmouth students’ outfits of the day. She called this “OOTD-Dartmouth” the “seed” that started the club. She came up with the idea her freshman year and planned to launch routine Instagram posts with spring outfits around campus during spring of 2020. As we all know, the abruptly virtual 2020 spring term indefinitely postponed her campus-centered vision for OOTD-Dartmouth.
“When choosing which outfits to photograph, it’s quite simple — I photograph the outfits that bring me joy,” Kurt said. “As I go about my day, I’m always finding delight in people’s outfits, as I compliment them in my head, if not out loud. Now, I go up to them and take their photo for the Instagram page.”
Because Kurt started the club during her freshman winter, the OOTD-Dartmouth idea had to wait nearly three years to become a reality because of COVID-19. The club operated virtually during the fall of 2020, hosting meetings on Zoom, and then eased back into in-person events as the College began to bring students back to campus, Kurt explained. The club’s Instagram runs the gamut of fashion inspiration, highlighting the Japanese designer Dimda’s Prada-style handbags made of single-use face masks, blog articles written by Fashion Et Cetera board members or visiting guest speakers from the fashion industry.
In addition to their recent fashion show and Instagram presence, Fashion Et Cetera has found alternative ways to be active this term. Their week five pop-up thrift shop in Collis Center offered students thrift options galore, without having to drive to popular thrift stores in West Lebanon or White River Junction. The club accepted donations for the thrift shop on April 24 and 25 and undertook sorting all the clothes before their two-hour event on Wednesday, April 26.
“The thrift store was so well received. We were thrilled with the donations and turnout from the Dartmouth community,” Kurt said.
When asked about how the club plans to continue its sustainability mission going forward, Kurt brought up several long-term ideas.
“I wish Dartmouth could have a permanent on-campus and student-run thrift or consignment store,” Kurt said.
Whether organizing fashion shows or planning for long-term sustainability, Fashion Et Cetera finds a way to bridge the aesthetic beauty of fashion with a social purpose. Of their five-person board, two members, Kurt and Jesse Farraioli ’23, will graduate this year. As with all clubs at Dartmouth, new classes of students will bring their own vision and purpose. The ’23s departure, along with ever-changing trends and new forms of sustainable fashion, will transform the club. While Kurt leaves behind a glamorous pair of knee-high boots to fill, campus is excited to see where the club’s evolution will take us.