Photos by Lisa Miller – Studio di Luce
“20 years of Fashion, and Family”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The weather couldn’t have been more perfect on the morning of Thursday, August 23, when I arrived at the “At the Rail” Pavilion at Saratoga Racecourse, for the 20th Anniversary Fashion Show, benefitting Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC).
A highly anticipated event, this fashion show has become a staple of the Saratoga Gala season. Twenty years is quite a run, and I attribute its success to the strong commitment, hard work, and tireless efforts of a family — I purposely use the word “family” because that’s exactly what organizer Natalie Sillery, proprietor of Saratoga Trunk Lady’s Finery has created.
Year after year this amazing woman continues to inspire the community to support this important organization. She and that “family” of friends, colleagues and associates have helped raise more than $1.3 million dollars to date + each year, for twenty years, members of the Saratoga community flock to this show to lend their support. We at saratoga.com and Daily Planet Arthur Planet are pleased to cover it, but even more grateful to put our “best feet forward” and be a part of it!
RMHC of Albany provides love, hope and support to critically or terminally ill children and their families. The 25 bedroom home is located within walking distance to Albany Medical Center Hospital. A sanctuary for many, this home provides respite for families experiencing difficult + challenging times. Learn more about RMHC and how you can lend your support HERE.
Rookie No More!
Sun is shining, ladies smiling and champagne flowing…this was the scene as I entered the outside area where the models (aka “Trunkettes”) prepared. I bumped into many familiar faces as I made my way towards the tent. Smart, sophisticated and all-around tremendous women who graciously volunteer their time to participate.
The incredibly talented Julie Potter of Eclectic Hair Studio of Latham (website) worked her magic transforming the ladies one-by-one!
I scanned the lawn for my blogging partners Mandy and Carrie. Carrie is a seasoned veteran of this show; however, this year it was Mandy’s turn to debut her skills on the catwalk! Happy to toss away my rookie status, I showed up to this show with a little more confidence, and a lot more swag!
A fashion Show Extravaganza
This 20th Anniversary event brought to Saratoga the incredibly talented Don O’Neill (THEIA) and American fashion icon Nicole Miller. There should be NO surprise when I say their designs are simply AMAZING! I donned two gowns – the first was a jaw-dropping design from THEIA— Rose/Gold, off-the-shoulders brocade ¾-sleeve ball gown that made me feel like a princess!
The second was a sexy yet stunning royal blue, ruched halter gown by Nicole Miller—both dresses equally amazing!!
Bringing out the inner goddess of more than thirty women is no easy task but the incredible designs from these two talents accomplished just that! A poignant moment occurred when a beautiful one-shouldered design by Nicole Miller, featuring a fluttered high-low hemline, was auctioned off in honor of the beloved Amy V. Raimo.
The 20th Annual Fashion Show to benefit RMHC was a tremendously successful event. Once again, the Saratoga community came together to support “The House That Love Built.” Well done, Natalie and family!
Lovely, Moving, and an Absolute Blast!
SARATOGA SPRINGS – As my five fingers grasp half of a wishbone…
Or when my stove clock turns to 11:11…
And every time I close my eyes and fill up my cheeks to blow out my birthday candles
I ALWAYS wish for the same thing:
“Please may my girls and I be happy and healthy”.
Lucky for me, my family has been blessed.
For other families, when illness creeps into the bodies of their babies, stress, financial burden, and life changing days, weeks, months and at times years takes over.
A child’s life-threatening illness becomes a family’s most heart-wrenching experience. The non-for-profit Ronald McDonald House has worked hard to create a home away from home, allowing families to focus on what’s really important: Their child’s recovery. Albany’s Ronald McDonald House provides a haven of comfort, love, hope and support- all free of charge – for critically ill children and their families.
Since its inception in 1974, more than 10 million families around the world have benefited from the support provided by a Ronald McDonald House (RMDH). In Albany, the 25-bedroom house has served over 650 families per year, and is supported by a team of 200 active volunteers.
Within the RMDH are themed rooms, such as the kid’s castle and Saratoga summer guest rooms. There are computers, laundry facilities, fully stocked and brightly colored children play spaces, cozy quiet areas filled with books about coping, childhood illness and inspirations books, and much more.
A poem I found on the Ronald McDonald House website says,
“This is a house where families meet to continue their lives,
To eat and sleep.
To find their strengths and dry their tears, to look forward with hope to better years.
This is the house that becomes their home.
This is the house that love built.”
In addition to a place to lay their head, the RMDH also provides The Family Room and Family Suite which are comfortable havens within the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center. Here families can find support and a comfortable respite while remaining close to their ill child and caregivers. Located right next to the neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, and staffed by compassionate volunteers, the program offers a refuge from the stress and tension of the hospital environment.
How can this wonderful organization fund, maintain and provide these tremendous free options for families in need?
For the past 20 years, the kind-hearted, petite, and beyond humble Natalie A. Sillery has gathered a tribe of women to don fabulous gowns, fascinators, and one-of-a-kind pieces. For this year’s 20th anniversary, Nicole Miller herself graced Saratoga alongside perennial fashion show staple, THEIA.
And what show stoppers their designs were!
Now, a girl never walks the runway and tells… but I can let you in on a few ‘behind the scenes’ nuggets from this runway newbie.
For the 3 hours before the show began within the makeshift changing room and garment tent, there was so much camaraderie and positive estrogen-infused energy that I began to feel like Gisele Bündchen, OK, maybe more like Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
My pre-show dirt that I can share: Champagne; meeting talented, beautiful inside and out powerhouses; oohing and ahhing over everyone’s transformation, which includes a huge shout out to Julie Potter from Eclectic Hair studio in Latham who coiffed our hair into submission; and simply the feeling of togetherness.
I have been coming to the track for years, but I can honestly say those 3 hours have been my favorite at the track so far.
At the walkway run through, I was given instructs of where to stand, how to walk, and when to turn-which I repeated over and over in my head:
“Wait for the shoulder tap, smile, go slow, smile, turn only when I get to the x, run out and get into my next outfit”.
I can do this, right? After all I’m Marvelous Mandy Weinerman!
My first walk: pretty perfect for a speech pathologist walking in front of hundreds of eyes as my image was being displayed on large screens around the room.
As I went to get my second outfit on- brace yourself boys- there were naked ladies scrambling all over. Wearing spanx, self adhesive bras, and the highest heels we could find – all scrambling to get off their first outfit and quickly get into their second. If I could have concentrated over screams of “Can you zip me?”, “Where is my other shoe?” and “I can’t find my skirt!” (that was me), I would have sat back and chuckled at the scene.
I made it back with my second outfit mostly on and only mildly sweating right before my name was called once again.
At the end of the runway was a handsome older gentleman – who I learned later was Natalie’s brother Bill – and whom I will be eternally grateful to. He was my focal point for the event, as he would stand as I approached my two-step decent to the tent floor. I would look at him and focus on his face-”walk to him, go slow, are you smiling, go slower, smile, wait for his hand, you are doing great, find the x, good: now pivot, (man I am not a good pivoter,) how did I get myself into this?”
After my last walk of the runway, and I found my space, I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief that all precious parts remained in my garments, I remained upright, and my nervous smile might just pass for a ‘hey look at me’ moment.
In addition, after I attempted to return to the Pavilion with my designer outfit off and my new Marshalls sundress on, a security guard asked where my wrist band was. I told him I was one of the models. Which he then yelled to the other guard at the door, “she’s a model”! Darn right I am!
This “20 years of Fashion, 1000 nights of Hope” benefiting Ronald McDonald House Charities event was lovely, moving, and an absolute blast. Throughout the ‘At the Rail Pavilion’ were wonderful reminders of why people were there. My favorite touch was the placemats made by individuals, whose lives had been blessed by the Ronald McDonald House.
Later that night, when I wiped away the last layer of foundation, kissed each of my daughters on the forehead, and pulled my comforter over me in the security of my own home, I couldn’t help but reflect about what “1000 nights of Hope” will be providing to families in need. Over the past 20 years, Natalie A. Sillery has raised over $1.3 million s for the Ronald McDonald House. This stat takes my breath away.
Runway Gallery by Lisa Miller – Studio di Luce
Edited by: Arthur Gonick
September 2nd, 2018
Editor’s Note: HERE is a link to Part 1