From cats to the catwalk
4-Hers model high fashion at county fair
Riffling through a plastic laundry basket, Kari Hadl points out the black high-heeled sandals that go with the black sundress that goes with the black crochet sweater. Among the shoes and outfits sits a set of hot rollers. Hadl, now dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, pokes her big toe out of a brown, chunky sandal, complaining to her mom, Pam, about the scuffs that have chipped away the red polish from her nail.
While Kari Hadl and her counterparts may not be rubbing elbows with the likes of Cindy Crawford or Naomi Campbell, these fashionistas are still surrounded by racks of clothes and cameras, even if they're the disposable variety in the hands of their mothers and grandmothers.
Part of the Douglas County Fairgrounds became a makeshift runway as Eudora 4-H participants strutted their stuff for the clothing construction and buymanship competition July 19 and 20.
Beyond modeling, contestants also meet one-on-one with judges to have their clothing critiqued and to answer questions about caring for the fabric and where the outfit could be worn.
Later in the evening, some of the participants' younger brothers would get their turn showing off the outfits they put together. That morning, though, the floor belonged to the girls who sewed their own clothing and assembled purchased outfits.
Kari Hadl said she liked picking out dresses to put together for the competitions because fancy dress clothes are few and far between in her regular wardrobe.
"I grow out of them really fast," she said.
Competitors look for clothes that fit their body shape, Pam Hadl said.
In the group of girls that modeled their outfits with Jessica Brecheisen, Eudora High School sophomore, the styles ran the gamut from Day-Glo sundresses paired with flip-flops to prom dresses, accented with a tanning-bed bronze. Props included a tennis racket, a clarinet and a cowboy hat.
After doing a few turns in front of the judges, Brecheisen still had a competition number pinned to the bottom of her Capri pants. She said she didn't spend time perfecting her model walk or preparing hair and make-up.
"It's mostly just about the clothes," she said.
Although Brecheisen's 10-year-old brother, Chase, participated, the siblings kept shopping trips separate.
Participants said putting together or sewing the outfits takes several weeks. Kari Hadl said that rather than going on a major shopping spree, she and her mother found her outfit items piecemeal, scouting out sales.
LaDonna Ballock's daughter Megan, 13, competed in buymanship while her other daughter, Emily, 11, sewed her own skirt and jacket.
Emily said she paid less to sew her garments than Megan spent buying her outfit. But that isn't always the case, LaDonna Ballock said, turning over the jacket at the opening, showing Emily's stitches and all of the different materials that go into making just one item.
LaDonna Ballock's sons Jordan, 7, and Justin, 9, participate, although shopping trips reveal how much more enthusiastic Justin is than Jordan.
"He's trying to put together outfits, even though most of it's wrong," LaDonna said, laughing. "Jordan hates it. I had to bribe him with a package of Pokemon cards."
As another age group is about to begin, first-timer Sarah Heschmeyer, a sixth grader, wheels around a suitcase of her clothes. JoAnna Male, a fifth grader, describes one of her outfits as being in the "pretty dress" genre.
Megan and Emily Ballock prefer to compete with semi-casual clothes, like the skirts they wore at the competition.
"It's different than what you normally wear to school," Megan said.
When sophomore Ashley Moran chose items to sew for competition, she had comfort in mind. Moran held up soft, blue checked, straight-leg pants made from a pattern, a matching dew-rag made from scratch, and cloth coasters.
"I really like blue, and I wanted some pants to sleep in," she said.