Next Monday begins the style extravaganza known as Savannah Fashion Week 2013, and you should know the season's hottest accessory is a plastic bag full of tampons.
No. What? Lady, have you been mixing bourbon in the kombucha again, you'd like to know? (The answer is maybe, but only on Sunday afternoons.)
It's true that there are plenty of must-haves to be had during Fashion Week as SFW boutiques showcase an amazing array of au courant styles: The voguest among us covet a pair of Mary Milsap earrings from J. Paige to match a new frock from Palm Avenue or Bleubelle's Diane Von Furstenburg trunk show. Or one of Satchel's butter soft leather clutches paired with a tribal necklace from ZIA to top something frilly from Terra Cotta.
Locally-minded fashionistas (localistas?!) can find Mamie Ruth's south of the border designs at Custard and sexy beaded blouses by Mangled Courtesan at Trunk 13, while Red Clover hosts Charleston emerging designer Sabrina Spanta.
Even if your closet is full, Fabrika has hand-sewn Michael Mann bowties for the men, and chic children are covered — in precious haberdashery from the Beaufort Bonnet Company — by Sara Jane.
Each of these shops has events happening during the week, which will culminate in a runway show Thursday, April 25 plus the Savannah Independent Designers' panoply of ferocity on Friday (stay tuned for more on SID next week.)
I'm always grateful that Savannah retailers organize this modish manifesto each year since I depend on our local shops to show me what's in, otherwise I might show up to your next gallery opening or cocktail party wearing tartan culottes or, heaven forbid, a Canadian tuxedo. (If you're not familiar with this dastardly denim trend, Pinterest can help you.)
But I could attend any Fashion Week event in a Members Only jacket and a pair of parachute pants and still look super fierce. How? By toting that aforementioned tote of unmentionables.
While feminine hygiene products may clash with this year's floral prints, they are — along with diapers, new packs of undies, towels, linens and other necessities — an integral part of Savannah Fashion Week. Each SFW retailer is collecting them for the Magdalene Project, a local women's and children's shelter that is in perpetual need of such basic items.
The grand aim of Fashion Week may be to tantalize the town into doing some spring shopping, but the big hearts and high heels behind it not are keenly aware of how blessed those are able to do so.
"All of us shopowners are really fortunate to love what we do," muses Elizabeth Seeger of Satchel, who has crafted leather items in her Broughton Street storefront since 2006. "We tend to provide to people of means, and we wanted to help those who don't have as much."
Because most of the boutiques cater to the feminine mystique, SFW focuses their spotlight on charities that aid women. Last year SFW raised around an estimated $10,000 in dry goods and proceeds from the fashion show for Safe Shelter, and Custard owner and SFW president Tara Kirkland hopes it can surpass that number this year.
"It's important that we give back somehow, that we have an impact on our local environment," says Kirkland. "The goods we're collecting plus the funds have a significant effect."
Specifically set up for homeless women with children by providing emergency beds, job assistance and life skills education, the Magdalene Project serves all kinds, from teen moms to displaced military wives. That bag of extra personal items may not seem like a lot when you're about to drop a hundy on a pair of sandals, but each donation adds up to keeping the shelter open.
"It's amazing what we take for granted in our daily routines, and these women have nothing." reminds Jeanette Ortiz-Andreon, the project's Emergency Services director and quite a stylish lady herself. "Just a new pack of make-up can make all the difference for these women when they go on a job interview or a court hearing."
Unfortunately, the Magdalene Project is especially vulnerable after losing $25,000 in federal funding in budget cuts this year. But the charity may be able to regain some traction with the fashion show proceeds — making a ticket to next Thursday's spectacle at the Lucas Theatre another way to flash your supreme sense of style.
"We're able to effectively leverage a hundred dollar donation into a thousand by matching funds because grants want to see a commitment from the community level," says Dr. Frances Carter, Executive Director of Union Mission, the organization that oversees the Magdalene Project. "It doesn't take a lot to move the needle."
So as Fashion Week proceeds from downtown to midtown to the Designer District, we here at Connect hope to see Savannah's best-dressed ladies swinging Target and Rite-Aid bags stuffed with Pampers and Kotex and Maybelline.
After all, this season's trends may pass, but a helping hand never goes out of style.