Christian Fashion Week: Good girls don't have to dress bad - WFLA News Channel 8

Christian Fashion Week: Good girls don't have to dress bad

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Mayra Gomez, wearing black, co-founder of Christian Fashion Week, talks with others during a planning meeting at her house. Photo by Jay Conner, Tampa Tribune Mayra Gomez, wearing black, co-founder of Christian Fashion Week, talks with others during a planning meeting at her house. Photo by Jay Conner, Tampa Tribune
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

If the idea of a Christian fashion show has you picturing sackcloth and sandals, you're not even close, says former model Mayra Gomez.

Think couture without the cleavage, and a runway minus the risqué.

"You can be hip and modest at the same time, without being boring," says the Odessa woman. "We like to call it dressing with integrity."

After nearly two years of planning and investing about $25,000, Gomez and her husband, Jose, who run a Web-based software company, are launching Christian Fashion Week in Tampa, featuring nine designers, runway shows, exhibitors, stylists and a noted fashion speaker.

Calling it a "week" is a stretch, though. The inaugural event will run only two days -- this Friday and Saturday at two locations in Tampa. The plan is to make it an annual happening and expand the number of days.

"We're already getting calls from people who want us to set this up in other cities," Gomez says. "And who knows – this could end up in London, New York, Italy. There's nothing wrong with dreaming big."

The concept to cater to this target audience may be new, but Gomez believes it's "long overdue" and will resonate with Christian consumers. It already has caught the attention of several industry watchers on the national scene, including Christianity Today. The nation's leading evangelical publication is sending a fashion reporter and photographer to cover the event.

The Gomezes hope Christian Fashion Week will increase awareness and generate a movement with designers to take into account that "good girls don't have to dress bad." That also happens to be the title of a style guide workbook by author Shari Braendel. The founder of the Fashion Meets Faith ministry will speak both days at the event.

"[Christian women have] been taught so long that it's all about our inner beauty, and that should be the most important thing," Braendel says. "But in the process, we've ignored our outside appearance. There has to be a balance.

"We're a walking advertisement for Jesus to the outside world, so what's wrong with being attractive and relevant?"

Braendal uses her expertise in fashion merchandising to teach females ages "9 to 90" how to dress with confidence at about 40 churches, retreats and boot camps around the country each year. To keep up with the demand for her services, she's training other "Christian image consultants" to offer the program.

She says she doesn't know what to expect with this weekend's event, but she's excited to be a part of it.

"The biggest challenge we've got now is the younger kids. We need to deliver a message that you can be fashionable without showing all your stuff," she says. "Unfortunately, the industry is sending a different message."

For that audience, she developed "Modesty Rocks" youth conferences, aimed specifically at teen girls.

"There's nothing wrong or sinful about celebrating our bodies. There's a right way and a wrong way to do it," Braendel says. "Hiding behind long skirts and shirts up to our necks doesn't make us any more pure. Being frumpy and disheveled does nothing for our self-confidence."

Fashion stylist Tamy Lugo also helps women find clothing that fits their lifestyle, budget, shape and – in some cases – faith.

"What you see on the runway, or even in the stores, just may not work for you. That blouse may be cute, but it also may show too much cleavage,' she says. "So I help you find something more suitable, but not any less fashionable."

What's hot this year? Faux fur and vests. As for shoes, "almost anything goes," Lugo says.

"You can really spice up an outfit with a funky pair of shoes," she says. "Now, if they happen to be six-inch platforms, you might be overcompensating there."

Local designer Alma Vidovi chose Christian Fashion Week as the place to debut her first collection of wedding gowns, inspired by the Victorian-era use of floragraphy, which uses flower symbolism in describing emotions. Models will show off 10 designs she created – all suitable for the bride who wants to impress without compromising her values.

"Of course you can show a little skin, but keep it to where you're comfortable," she says. "This is your special day and you want everything to be special. If you're feeling like you're exposing a little too much, that could change the whole mood."

This isn't Gomez's first attempt at changing the fashion industry.

She's also the founder of TruModel, an eight-week program for girls and young women that emphasizes character growth and self-respect through early intervention and mentoring. She's says it takes a "thick skin" to work in the modeling and acting fields, so she developed tools to teach them how to be a role model first. So far, some 300 participants have completed the program.

Christian Fashion Week, she says, takes the next step. She's hoping designers, wholesalers and retailers will take notice.

"There's a whole market out there that's not being addressed," she says. "Just listen to what we're saying. Give us clothes that we can wear without sacrificing what we stand for."

mbearden@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7613

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