Project Frumway

Project Frumway - 614 eZine - Vol 6, Issue 4

A fashion-design contest and runway show where modesty reigns supreme

by Michelle Cove

Last March, over three hundred women attended Project Frumway, an annual charitable fashion show put on by New York NCSY (the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union). The popular community-wide event is modeled after the hit reality show Project Runway on Lifetime TV, in which contestants compete against each other in an effort to create the best clothing based on a theme; there are also, of course, major restrictions on time and materials (like, say, $100 to spend at a dollar store and 24 hours to create a couture-style dress). The winner of Project Runway receives $100,000 to start his or her own clothing line, along with a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine, other prizes and, of course, major bragging rights.

Project Frumway is a design competition and fashion show for young Orthodox women that centers on creating beautiful skirts that are modest, covering the woman’s upper legs. Women of all ages were invited to participate in this nationwide skirt design competition, and the rules are as follows: The design must be original and reflect the upcoming spring season trends, while adhering to the Jewish laws of modesty. There is an $18 (18 being symbolic of chai, or life, in Hebrew) design submission fee, and all proceeds go to NCSY programming for Jewish teens.

Whereas Project Runway partners with Marie Claire magazine, New York NCSY partnered with Junee and Junee Jr., a New York-based clothing chain that sells modest clothing for women and girls. Seventy models representing nine yeshivas from across the New York region—HALB, SKA, HANC, HAFTR, Shalhevet, Shulamis, Mercaz, TAG and YCQ—participated in the fashion show to display the inventive designs. The award for first place went to Annie Mizrahi, an 18-year-old from Brooklyn, New York, whose design was then manufactured by Junee’s professional dressmaker and featured in the Project Frumway fashion show. Annie also received a $500 gift certificate to Junee, and perhaps best of all, Annie’s design is being sold at all Junee stores with her name on the skirt. The second-place winner—Chaya Hoffman, 16, of Bergenfield, New Jersey—received a $250 gift certificate to Junee; the third-place winner—Chana T. Zaks, 20, of Silver Spring, Maryland—received a $100 gift certificate to Junee.

The reason for Project Frumway, according to Hanna Schlager, is simple: In today’s pop culture society, women of all ages feel pressured to conform to modern fashion trends that often do not reflect Torah guidelines. It is this challenge that drives Project Frumway year after year. The goal is to create and promote a positive body image by dressing fashionably and modestly. It demonstrates that dressing modestly can enhance and improve one’s self-esteem. Project Frumway creator Rina Emerson, currently the associate director of alumni connections at the Orthodox Union, declared, "The beauty of Project Frumway is that it is a positive environment where women of all ages can learn about Jewish laws of modesty in a fun and non-threatening way. It is an excellent opportunity for teenage girls to express that dressing in a frum manner means that you can look put-together and fashionable."

It should be noted that this year, NCSY also added an educational initiative to Project Frumway in order to give the program more substance, says Hannah Schlager, special projects coordinator for NSCY. The organization selected Jamie Deluca, a public school junior at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, Long Island, to speak to girls at yeshiva day schools about her choice to dress more modestly and live a tzanua (modest) lifestyle. Says Schlager, "We chose her because she was very eloquent about why she made the decision to live this way, and the fact that it was a choice was very inspiring to hear for the girls who have been born into this lifestyle."

For more information on the show, hearing Jamie speak, or general inquiries, please contact the NY NCSY office at 516.569.6279 or visit newyork.ncsy.org.

About the Author

Michelle CoveMichelle Cove
Michelle Cove is the editor of 614 and the director of the feature-length documentary Seeking Happily Ever After: One generation’s struggle to redefine the fairytale (seekinghappilyeverafter.com). She is also the author of the book Seeking Happily Ever After: How to navigate the ups and downs of being single without losing your mind (and finding lasting love along the way) (Tarcher/Penguin, 2010).

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