Students at one archdiocesan high school have wrapped up this academic year in style – literally.

Last Sunday, St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls in Philadelphia held its fourth annual fashion show, featuring creations by seniors and juniors enrolled in the school’s clothing and textile design program.

Some two dozen Bambies modeled the couture along a poolside runway at the Philadelphia Union League at Torresdale Country Club, garnering applause from faculty, staff, board members and alumnae – most of whom were sporting fascinators, or high-society headpieces, donated by American Hats LLC, the only hat factory based in Philadelphia.

Finished products included casual and formal dresses, as well as skirts, shorts and tops in fabrics ranging from cotton to satin.

Senior Delaney Butler even stitched a dress from a men’s shirt she had bought at a thrift store – a form of “upcycling,” or repurposing, that has become increasingly trendy in eco-friendly fashion circles as a way of countering the industry’s significant waste levels.

Several students presented outfits they planned to don for graduation, while instructor Jillian Smith – a 2016 St. Hubert graduate herself – offered two of her own works, both vintage-themed evening constructions in black, white and silver tones.

Students from the textile arts program at St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls modeled their latest designs during a May 16 fashion show held poolside at the Philadelphia Union League at Torresdale Country Club. (Gina Christian)

Smith said she and her students were “so grateful to be able to have this event after such a difficult year.”

“Learning how to sew under normal circumstances is not easy,” said Smith. “Learning how to sew during a pandemic was challenging to say the least.”

She noted most of her students “walk into the classroom with no sewing experience,” and begin by learning basic techniques, first assembling pajama pants and eventually dresses. Afterward, Smith directs them to “apply their skills to design (a) whole collection.”

But with classes moved online due to COVID precautions, many students found themselves without access to a sewing machine. Fortunately, a generous grant from the Connelly Foundation offset that obstacle, enabling the school to purchase 61 machines, “one for every single student,” said St. Hubert president Lizanne Pando.

Yet the road to the runway was a long and difficult one, she admitted.

“At the beginning of this year, I never could have imagined that we would be sitting here having this fashion show,” Pando said. “We have all suffered so much; no one has really been spared.”

During the May 16 fashion show, St. Hubert alumna and clothing instructor Jillian Smith (left) thanked her former teacher and mentor, Mary Green, while senior Emily Livewell (pictured in a dress she designed and stitched) carried a pillow she had made from the housecoat of her grandmother, who died of COVID in December 2020. (Gina Christian)

However, said Smith, “our Bambies rose to the occasion,” even turning tragedy into treasures.

Senior Emily Livewell paired her outfit with a handmade pillow she had made from a housecoat worn by her grandmother, who died from COVID in December.

The project honored a relationship between the two that was “very close,” said Livewell. “She was a constant in my life.”

The event’s master of ceremonies, acclaimed broadcaster and St. Hubert board member Pat Ciarrocchi, said such “grace is the font of creativity.”

“When you have something that you need to express, that gift is something from God, from the divine,” she said. “It needs to go through you so that it becomes a creative expression that gets shared … and it’s in that sharing (our gifts) also multiply.”

That multiplication has continued for generations at St. Hubert, where textile instruction has been in place since the school’s establishment in 1941. The tradition looks set to continue for decades: alumna and retired St. Hubert educator Mary Green, who taught Smith, was on hand for the fashion show with two-year-old granddaughter Emma Grace, described as a future Bambie and already a “champion sock matcher” who knows her thread counts and shades.

Ciarrocchi said St. Hubert’s “shows how important Catholic, single-sex education is to inspire girls to focus on who they are, and what their God-given gifts are,” ultimately allowing them to “leap into their womanhood with a sense of confidence.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Bambies – whose seniors amassed more than $23 million in college scholarships this year — “proved they were leaders of faith and integrity,” said Pando, adding, “I learned a lot from these girls this year.”