It wasn’t exactly a makeover; at the outset the “before-and-after” volunteers looked too good to allow for a TV show-style contrast. But that didn’t stop the fashion mavens featured at Sunday’s Queen Esther Tea from drawing waves of applause as they produced their models, re-dressed to show just how stylish observant women can be.
The style lessons were part of the fifth women’s brunch of its kind, and the first bringing together women from both the historic Central and MetroWest federations.
Held at the YM-YWHA of Union County on Feb. 3 and hosted by Women’s Philanthropy of what is now the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, it attracted around 130 guests, from Elizabeth to Scotch Plains, from Summit to Morristown.
The cochairs, Faith Fisch of Hillside and Sharon Zwickler of West Orange were delighted with the turnout — about three times larger than last year’s — and to see women from various areas socializing.
For Fisch, active in the former Central federation — which had sponsored the previous teas — it was a familiar occasion and setting, in a community where she has played an increasingly active role; for Zwickler, the experience was altogether new.
“It’s been fun to organize,” she said. “My children go to the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth so I know this area, but for some of the people who’ve come, this is really unfamiliar territory.”
Previous Queen Esther Teas have focused on cooking, clearing clutter, and makeup. This year’s keynote guests, sisters Chaya Chanin and Simi Polonsky, asked the question, “Can you be chic and still keep tznius, obey the laws of modesty?”
The sisters grew up in the Orthodox community in Sydney, Australia, as the daughters of a rabbi, and now live in New York. They described how they began developing their eye for style as teenagers, guiding their mother and then her friends. They moved to the United States a few years ago, married, and started families. Two and a half years ago they went into business together.
The Frock Swap, their high end “pop-up” consignment store, brings what they dub “pre-loved designer favorites” to different venues around New York City and the tristate region. Their garments — end-of-season merchandise or barely worn items — are tagged at around a quarter of their original retail prices. “Fashion is our passion,” Chanin said. Their goal, her sister added, is “to let the true you shine through.”
Selecting from the array of clothes and accessories they brought with them, they dressed up a group of volunteers. Cynthia Galimidi, who did the makeup for all the models and herself, topped her outfit with a fedora that sat jauntily on her wig; Renee Krul was delighted with the black-and-white-striped pants they had her put on under a knee-length black skirt.
“What I really liked is that they showed looks that work for women of different ages,” commented a grandmother from Summit. “I’d never have thought of wearing a jacket like that — but it looks really good,” commented another woman.
“One of my favorite parts about our business is getting to meet people like the ones here today,” Chanin said. “They’re so nice.”