By Carlotta Mohamed
The Bayside Shield Institute hosted its sixth annual fashion show last week as models with intellectual and developmental disabilities walked the runway in hand-designed outfits reflecting New York City’s iconic locations.
This year’s theme — New York by Design — featured between 120 to 140 models wearing attire for a day or night out at the city’s museums, parks, sports arenas, opera and theatrical performances at Broadway.
The Bayside Shield — located at 39-09 214th Pl. — works with families and communities helping to enable children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual/developmental disabilities to lead full, meaningful lives that include a chance to work and contribute, according to Elizabeth LaMarca, director of the institute.
“This gives them experience to grow and develop,” said Susan Provenzano, executive director of Bayside Shield. “So for someone who’s afraid to get in front of a group, and come down in a beautiful outfit and get applause, it’s very meaningful.”
The Bayside Shield Institute began hosting the fashion show six years ago, said LaMarca.
Participants in the show designed and embellished their outfits families brought from home and donations from thrift storeswith staff based on their experience out and about in the city.
“We go to museums, Citi Field, Mets games, and the idea is that we’re all New Yorker’s and we want everyone to experience all that New York has to offer,” said LaMarca.
The grand finale included outfits reflecting the Empire State Building, the Twin Towers, the Oculus, the Unisphere, the Staten Island Ferry, the Bronx Zoo, the subways; the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Times, a tour guide, and New York City yellow taxi cabs.
Kimberly, who considers herself a fashionista, loves developing new ideas and designs and always wanted to be on the runway.
“I’m feeling good, just a little bit nervous because we do this every year and it’s enjoyable. This is an evening look for a Broadway show or going out of the town. I worked on it for a week or maybe a little longer,” she said of her outfit.
Other models were anxiously awaiting to try on their outfits before the show began.
“I feel a little bit nervous,” said Yvette, as she asked for her dress. “It’s my first time in the fashion show and I’m wearing a red dress.”
Stephanie Lorduy, a program specialist of health and wellness at the institute, coordinated the backdrops, design, and concept with the help of the volunteers that come to the program.
“The planning goes on for months… I started thinking about it after last year’s fashion show finished,” said Lorduy. “We started to discuss what was going to happen in the beginning of the year and things started to ramp up more in July and August.”
Additionally, the institute emphasizes the importance of health and wellness in its daily activities such as nutrition, exercising, diet and spiritual wellness — all of which were woven into the show.
“The Shield fashion show empowers individuals to express themselves through art, movement, music and fashion while, at the same time, fostering social and community connections,” said LaMarca. “Our theme for this year’s fashion event, New York by Design, reflected the rich and meaningful experiences shared by those who attend the Shield Institute. We are proud New Yorkers and we wanted to show it.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha