On the surface, "Style Wars," a design competition at Roosevelt Field last Friday, seemed like a local "Project Runway" wannabe.
Eight advanced fashion design students at Nassau Community College were paired with one of eight "clients." The challenge? Design the cocktail or red carpet dress of the client's dreams over a five-week period on a $100 budget (provided by Roosevelt Field) incorporating a pink element in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
But, unlike "Project Runway," this was a celebration of life - and went well beyond fashion. The "model-clients" were volunteers from the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, all survivors of breast, ovarian or cervical cancer.
"It's more than the dress, it's the message," said Laura Sposato-Record, 57, of Greenlawn, a survivor of breast and cervical cancer who smoldered in a smoky blue satin evening gown, with cluster of pink crystal filled rosettes on the train. "When women see me, they can have hope. That feeling that the world is full of possibilities is very contagious."
Her designer, Marelissa Rito, 22, of Hicksville, said, "I'm unbelievably honored to make these women feel special and sexy and beautiful."
That was important to Joyce Glicker, 47, of Huntington, now enduring her fourth battle with breast cancer. "I'm living with cancer the way people live with diabetes, and there is hope. To be able to strut myself down that runway shows people there is life after a cancer diagnosis. It means a lot to feel good about yourself, that you're still a little sexy and can still turn a head."
Whew, did she ever in her form-fitting strapless, draped peach chiffon number with cream borders and a mermaid hem (it won first runner-up) designed by Belania Daley, 19, of Hempstead. Daley's mother, Jean Spence, also a breast cancer survivor, sat in the audience and joyously threw her arms in the air when her daughter's work hit the runway. "It was an automatic connection with Joyce because she was in the same boat as my mom," Daley said. "I wanted to make her feel sexy, elegant, beautiful and strong."
Angela Bracciante, 60, a breast cancer survivor from Eatons Neck, with spiky white hair and funky red glasses, trembled as she walked down the runway. (Later, she attributed the jitters to her high-ish silver sandals. "How do they do it on 'Dancing With the Stars?'" she asked). Shahira Asadi, 23, of Hicksville designed her layered gown in two shades of pink, embellished with pearls, beads and sequins.
It won first prize (a $500 gift card).
"With every stitch I sewed on that dress," Asadi said, "I thought of her journey.