NORFOLK — With 25 years of experience as a runway and print plus-size model, Tracie Stern understands how a piece of clothing that fits just right can encourage a woman to hold her head a little higher and walk with a brighter sense of confidence.
With that in mind, Stern is refocusing her fashion background on a mission to empower and encourage women who are escaping domestic violence not just with any clothing, but with plus-sized fashion-forward clothing.
In her recent partnership with plus size clothing franchise, Ashley Stewart, Stern is hosting a “Clothing Closet Drive” event on Oct. 26 when the retail store’s customers can donate their “gently-loved” outfits to benefit clients at Samaritan House, a nonprofit resource for victims of domestic violence and and those experiencing homelessness.
“My goal is for these beautiful and colorful pieces that fit a body the way they should and are not boxy, baggy, or oversized and frumpy — these women are going to have their spirit lifted and be able to walk proud because they’ll actually be in clothes they like and not clothes they may feel are somebody else’s trash,” she said.
But when she toured the organization’s corporate office earlier this year, Stern said she noticed the “dire need” for full-figured clothing in the donation closet where women who needed it would “shop” for work, school, or everyday ensembles.
“A lot of the clients that come in there are on the full-figure side and they don’t have appropriate wardrobe for them to replace anything they left behind in their haste,” she said.
In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the timing seemed perfect for Stern to host an event to garner enough clothing to create a plus-sized section within Samaritan House’s clothing closet.
Stern’s “Clothing Closet Drive” is just one part of Samaritan House’s third annual “Paint 757 Purple” campaign.
For the month of October, shoppers will see local businesses with a “Paint 757 Purple” poster in the window to show they have pledged to either donate a portion of their proceeds to Samaritan House for the entire month or are participating on Oct. 24, the designated “paint 757” day, said Eva Fuze, Samaritan House’s marketing coordinator.
Based in Virginia Beach, Samaritan House owns and operates safe houses for those seeking emergency shelter, and in their permanent programs shelter about 110 people per night.
They also provide services and programs for adults and children with the mission to “ultimately break the cycles of violence and homelessness,” according to the website.
For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the nonprofit is literally painting the 757 with their second cause-connected mural set to go up at the Oceanfront by the end of the month.
Fuze said they’re encouraging the community to come out to shop at businesses on the 24th or go online to support the fundraiser.
Stern is accepting all brands of gently-loved plus-size (12 and up) clothing and doing live home renovation demonstrations at the Ashley Stewart location at 700 N. Military Highway in Norfolk Oct. 26 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.