On Saturday Dec. 7, the Gund Commons Ballroom was set up with an elaborate runway flanked with a U-shaped arrangement of chairs terminating on each end against a wall of curtains. A crowd gathered for Kenyon College’s first Body Positive Fashion Show co-sponsored by Epsilon Delta Mu (EDM), the Cox Health and Counseling Center, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Athletes for Equality and the Sexual Respect Peer Alliance (SRPA), among others.
The show was preceded on Thursday, Dec. 4 with a talk given by Sonja Stotz, the Director of Food and Nutrition at the Center for Balanced Living in Columbus. The talk focused on providing information about eating disorders and ways to support those struggling with them. The event is the latest in a series concerning issues of mental health on campus in which student organizations have taken a prominent role.
The talk was multifaceted, covering not only information about eating disorders, but also ways of tackling elements of the social climate that contribute to negative body images. A significant portion of the talk focused on the impact of factors such as social media and advertisement on body image. Stotz discussed how social pressures often have an adverse effect on the way people view their bodies.
“Everyone has the right to feel at home in their own body,” Stotz said.
The show, which was intended to build upon the material discussed in the talk and to offer further information about the Center for Balanced Living, featured 16 student models wearing outfits designed by fellow students. It was directed by Melissa Markstein ’22, who began the project as part of her role as the women’s outreach chair of EDM.
“I thought the fashion show could be a really cool way to make it a positive and happy event,” Markstein said. “Because eating disorder awareness really isn’t the happiest topic, [I wanted to frame] it in a way where we’re trying to celebrate our beauty and our bodies, creating a positive body image and really supporting each other.”
Markstein emphasized that the event was also intended to showcase the creativity of the Kenyon student body along with tying in to the messages presented at Stotz’s lecture. The event drew a variety of students, who presented looks ranging from the elegant to the avant garde. The clothes were unified by their goal to reflect the identity and expression of the models and designers.
“I think part of it is just sort of putting a good message out there and letting people know that this is their body and it’s great to be happy in it,” Jeremy Baier ’22, who modeled for the event, said. “And that’s sort of the message we wanted to broadcast with this event.”
“I think something that is really important to me is knowing that students have concerns about getting people enough resources to meet their needs,” Markstein said, “and knowing that bringing [Stotz] helps to build a bridge between a center in Columbus and [the Counseling Center].”