Reclaiming old Hollywood, Body Haven’s annual fashion show redefines modeling

Models of all shapes and sizes strutted their stuff down the runway for Body Haven’s “Filmed in Cinemascope” fashion show Friday at the Student Center.

The show’s theme of old Hollywood acknowledges a time filled with glitz, glamor and exclusion. Body Haven designers and models worked to reclaim eras of fashion that people were excluded from due to the way they looked, said Brianna Ramirez, a junior film major and Body Haven’s president.

Body Haven is a student club at Columbia that focuses on body positivity and fat liberation, creating a safe space for students of all body types.

Larger bodies in old Hollywood films were often only depicted in discriminatory ways for comedic relief, Ramirez said.

“It was an era of one type of body,” she said. “We landed on early Hollywood because everybody wants to feel luxurious, everyone wants to feel gorgeous, and they should be able to see themselves on the screen of that era.”

Ramirez said the choice of doing a fashion show event reflects this reclamation.

“Fashion shows are very exclusive and a lot of times are very expensive to attend,” Ramirez said. “You don’t necessarily have to be super tall, super skinny, super whatever to be a model.”

Emily Hochbaum, a senior fashion studies major, stands proudly with her designs while receiving an eruption of praise from an audience for the bi-annual fashion show hosted by Body Haven. The show took place on Saturday, March 11 at the Student Center. Zoë Takaki

Four designers showcased their work.

The show started off with Elijah Jagours, a junior music major who goes by the stage name Háj, performing four original songs and three covers.

Models came out one by one, each doing their own unique catwalk. The designs were an homage to old Hollywood, featuring rhinestones, big bows and floor length dresses.

The audience doubled in size this year to about 200 attendees, with the school now allowing the public to attend. Last year, the event was restricted to only Columbia students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aysha Nikole, a 2021 graduate of the Fashion Studies Department, showcased her sparkly black and white collection on four different models, all ranging in size.

Nikole echoed the importance of fashion inclusivity.

“This event is really showing you that you can look beautiful in whatever shape, whatever size, whatever height, whatever color, because clothes are not specific to a race or a certain height or a certain person,” Nikole said. “They’re for everyone to express themselves.”

Ruby Spencer, a burlesque performer, twirls her fur scarf during her performance at the Student Center at 754 S. Wabash Ave., on Saturday, March 11. Spencer is the owner of Chicago School of Burlesque, an arts studio that provides dance and burlesque classes and workshops. Sam Tucker

Nikole said she makes her designs with her models in mind, creating specific pieces for their bodies and personal styles.

Leilani Fernandez, one of Nikole’s models and a senior communications major, appreciated the experience of having the clothes designed around her.

“Usually you have to fit the clothing — they don’t make the clothing to fit you. So it’s nice for it to be the other way around and have the clothes made to fit us instead of forcing us to fit into clothes,” Fernandez said.

Siena Moccia a Fall 2022 graduate of the Business and Entrepreneurship Department, attended last year’s fashion show and came back to see the event this year.

“It’s really important to see a wide array of body types in really cool clothing because you really don’t see it that often,” she said.

The show ended in a seductive fashion with Chicago-based burlesque dancer Ruby Spencer teasing the cheering audience by removing her boa, then her gloves — then her dress.