http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/03/07/american-girls-on-the-runway


Danville Express

Living - March 7, 2008

American Girls on the runway

Fans are flocking to historical fashion show fundraiser

by Meghan Neal

Sammi Tovani will walk the runway dressed as Felicity Merriman, a colonial girl who grew up in Virginia in 1774, right before the Revolutionary War.

Lindsey Cole portrays Kit Kittredge, who was raised during the Great Depression and learned to cope with hardship when her father lost his job.

Felicity and Kit are two of the historical characters in the American Girl doll collection. On April 5 and 6, 115 local girls will model these historical figures, and others, in an American Girl fashion show hosted by Golden View Elementary School.

American Girl dolls, which have been around since 1986, are somewhat of a craze with young girls even today.

"The minute they see those beautiful dolls in those beautiful clothes, I swear it's just a downhill battle," said Hilary Lucas, co-chairwoman of the show. "I don't know if it's because the girls are kind of magical, they're beautifully made ... Honestly, I can't explain it to you."

"Cult's not the right word," mused Toni Cole, another co-chairwoman. "They're a phenomenon."

Leveraging this popularity, American Girl helps organizations put on fashion shows using the brand's name. The company supplies matching outfits for the models and the dolls.

Lucas said she thought this would be a great way to do something unique for the school's annual fundraiser. But landing an American Girl fashion show wasn't easy. It's a very competitive process and they were lucky to be picked, she said.

"What's fun about it is we've made it a community event," said Lucas.

The organizers invited girls from the San Ramon Valley and Oakland Hills area to apply to be models. From hundreds of applications, they randomly chose the models for the show.

Then Lucas and Cole decided which girls to put in which outfits, often based on if someone resembled one of the characters.

There are 13 historical characters in American Girl's flagship line, representing important eras in American history. And each one comes with corresponding books and movies that talk about the character's life in that time period.

"The way they market it, where there is that whole historical education ... I think is what's very cool about this," said Lucas. "It's creating a kind of awareness and understanding."

Even though the books are geared for ages 7-12, they cover serious issues like child abuse, poverty, racism and war.

Cole said the stories definitely spark a curiosity and interest in history.

"My 7-year-old asks, 'Oh, Addy is a slave. Did you ever have a slave, Mommy?'" she related.

At the show, as each model comes out, a commentator will talk about the character's historical and personal background. These commentators will be high school students Ari Eastman, Amani Alkowni, Monzia Masud and Allie Curtis.

The event will also feature local news anchors as emcees. Lucas said she contacted the anchors - Tori Campbell from Channel 2, Diane Dwyer from NBC11, and Juliette Goodrich from Channel 5 - figuring they'd be well spoken and could draw in the crowd. As it turned out, a couple of them had daughters who were huge American Girl fans.

"They knew American Girl! They were so excited. It was great," Lucas said.

Yet another attraction at the event will be the young woman who models the character of Julie in the American Girl company catalog; she will be participating in the show and signing autographs.

Julie Albright is the "new" historical figure in the collection - she grew up in San Francisco in the 1970s and is clad in bell bottoms and orange boots. As a child of divorce living in a decade of transformation, Julie learns to understand the importance of change.

"Kids can think, 'Oh I get it, my Julie doll kind of sadly represents where my family's at,'" explained Lucas. "It's a kind of an interesting twist. It's not just a doll to have them play with. There's a real history that goes along with it."

Each of the four shows, which will be held at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, can host up to 400 guests. The proceeds will go toward the school's computer lab, new science equipment and textbooks.

History on parade

What: American Girl Fashion Show hosted by Golden View Elementary School

Who: Anyone can attend. Tickets are first-come, first-served.

When: 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Saturday, April 5, and Sunday, April 6

Where: Castlewood Country Club, 707 Country Club Circle in Pleasanton

Tickets: $45 per person; purchase at www.eastbayfashionshow.com.

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