Brandywine Heights High School has perfected the student fashion show for 20 years. And now, just taking a common theme and making a garment stable enough to get down the catwalk is a little too amateur for them.
On Saturday, the BHHS Art Club showed off what they were really capable of with their 18th and final fashion show at Kutztown University’s Schaffer Auditorium.
The initial idea of the fashion show can be credited to the 1995 art club president Stephanie Maser (now Stephanie Deitrich) as she and long-time BHHS art teacher and art club advisor, Suzanne Oswald, discussed ways to fund the various costs of the art department. Deciding to take on the challenge, the club kept the initial show simple; showing off casual ware and formal attire from local stores.
Now, 20 years later, the BHHS students displayed a full production showcasing the various talents, a full set and more than 100 garments surrounding the common theme of the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz.
“It’s been planned for how many years now that we were always going to end with Wizard of Oz,” said art club officer Rebekah Madsen.
While stating that the theme is Oswald’s (whom they coincidentally call ‘Oz’) favorite movie and book, Madsen did not directly talk about Oswald’s retirement. Another art club officer, Lauren Gill, said, “We never really thought this would be the last one when we were freshmen by any means. But I wouldn’t have ended it any other way.”
More than just a fashion show, and dedicated to the late custodian and patron of all BHHS events, Jimmy Lesher, the production included various musical performances like a unique ukulele version of the classic number “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” by Elizabeth Pristash and Alex Meck. The BHHS Choraliers performed their a capella version of Wicked’s “Defying Gravity,” and Wendy Pristash dedicated her performance of Wicked’s “For Good” to the great and powerful ‘Oz’ herself. Alongside the musical numbers were acts by The Performing Arts Center of Lehigh Valley, dancing to “Ease On Down The Road,” The BHHS Cascade Brigade Jugglers, choreographed to “If I Only Had A Brain,” and the AACC Dance Connection Enerjazz Team, performing to “One Short Day.” The Masters of the Ceremony gave their own spin on each key character, including Wendy Pristash as the Good Witch, Mike Kistler as the Wizard, principal Heather Piperato as the Wicked Witch, Elizabeth Gonzalez as Dorothy, and former teachers Jerry Battenfield as Scarecrow and Cynthia Hilegass as Tin Man.
Although a major production, the focus was still the incredible fashion the various art classes brought to the stage. Starting their work in January, and under the direction of Oswald, Shara Sweitzer and Michael Daddario, the students in various art classes, ranging from junior to senior, were able to feature more than 100 hand-made garments and fashion designs. From a hot air balloon inspired outfit to an outer space munchkin to a ready-for-battle Toto and Wendy, there was nothing dull or overdone coming down the catwalk on Saturday night.
“One time we did the first Friday over in Bethlehem, my kids were over there in their outfits. Cars stopped and asked what college these kids went to,” Oswald tears up as she reminisces about all the hard work each student put into their designs over the past 20 years.
Ending the show, the senior art students put together a special thank you for Oswald who has been teaching art for 36 years. Sharing sentiments, memories and showing off their versions of ruby slippers to match Oswald’s, the senior class even invited Oswald’s daughter to say a few words as an early “Happy Mother’s Day.”
“This was never meant to be my farewell,” Oswald says as she explains that you can’t always control comings and goings in life. However the students have really turned the show around to tribute their beloved teacher.
“This is what she wants. This is what she should get. And it’s a great way to end everything out,” says art club officer Lauren Gill.