Decades of Divas

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    RetroFittings is an innovative fashion event that proves a good cause never goes out of style.


    The concept is simple: Fashion students from the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture Art and Planning (DAAP) are each given $10 to spend at a local St. Vincent de Paul thrift store to create a collection of looks. “The students will purchase clothing, fabrics, accessories and whatever else inspires them,” says Elysa Hamlin, Senior Communications Coordinator at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.


    The challenge is in taking those items and transforming them into couture runway-ready designs. These designs will then be modeled in a New York-style fashion show.


    When the first RetroFittings event was held 12 years ago, it was hosted in a small bar in Northern Kentucky. Over the years, as it continued to grow, RetroFittings was held in the 21st Century Theater. Then, after repeat sellout crowds at the Hilton Hall of Mirrors, the event is now held at Music Hall.


    The idea for RetroFittings was born out of a brainstorming session at a St. Vincent de Paul marketing meeting that included executive director Liz Carter, St. Vincent de Paul board member Tamie Sullivan and Ann Keeling, principal of Cristofoli-Keeling, Inc. a marketing communications firm.


    “They took the idea to the college of DAAP and the people at DAAP were so helpful and on board right from the start,” says Hamlin. “In fact, our current UC DAAP liaison, Ann Firestone, was one of the people who supported the project from day one.”


    Those on the drawing board for the event wanted something that was unique, interesting, and designed to engage the community. They also loved the idea behind RetroFittings because it would appeal to a wide variety of audiences. “The premise of the event also aligns perfectly with the transformation we see not only in the items donated to our thrift stores, but the transformation we see in people who are touched by St. Vincent de Paul,” adds Hamlin.


    There were 800 guests at last year’s event, and Hamlin says that they hope to exceed that record attendance this year. That shouldn’t be difficult, thanks to all of the activities in store for attendees. “Attendees will be dazzled and entertained by a fabulous show, live auction items that range from wild to luxurious and a boutique packed with trendy items at a great price,” explains Hamlin.


    This year’s new theme is “Decades of Divas,” as guests will see diva fashions and surprises from every decade, starting with those including Marilyn Monroe, Cher and Diana Ross to some modern divas such as the Spice Girls and Lady Gaga.


    In addition to the diva theme, there will be a few surprise guest models including Juliana Ono, daughter of the University of Cincinnati’s President Ono. Cincy Chic’s own Amy Scalia will co-emcee the event with KISS107’s DJ DLo.


    Volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul visit the homes of struggling families in neighborhoods across Cincinnati to provide hope, support and assistance with basic necessities including food, clothing, furniture, housing, medication and utilities. That’s why proceeds from the event will support the work that St. Vincent de Paul continues to do throughout the Queen City. But RetroFittings also does more than that, it also raises awareness and represents the true potential of items donated to St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores.


    “Like the students’ RetroFittings runway designs, donations to the thrift stores are re-invented and transformed into something beautiful – a coat for a growing child, a kitchen table for a family that was eating dinner on the floor or a bed for an elderly neighbor in need,” Hamlin says.


    The 12th annual RetroFittings event will take place on Thursday, October 16. Guests will enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and boutique shopping at 6 p.m., the live auction at 7:30 p.m. and the fashion show at 8 p.m.


    Hamlin adds that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul hopes to raise six figures at this year’s event. All proceeds from RetroFittings will go to support St. Vincent de Paul’s mission of helping Cincinnatians in need. To learn more about RetroFittings or to purchase your tickets, visit or call 513-421-HOPE (4673).