Last year's Fashion for Passion was a huge success. Courtesy photo

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. — The Passion for Fashion, an event designed to build self-esteem for young women on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, has launched its annual dress drive to collect new and gently used formal dresses. 

The dresses collected, along with jewelry, hair accessories and makeup, will be worn by teenage attendees of the 2020 Passion for Fashion event on March 21. 

On the surface, Passion for Fashion, coordinated by the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP), might seem to focus primarily on providing the dresses, shoes, jewelry and other accessories the teens need for that quintessentially American rite of passage: the high school prom. Underneath the surface, however, this long-running program is about so much more.

“For decades, our role in this community has been to provide opportunities for our kids, and to plant seeds for a more secure and vibrant future,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “That’s the guiding principle for every program we create. 

“In the case of Passion for Fashion, not only do we want our girls to share in the joy and excitement all American teens experience as they prepare for the prom, we also want to provide meaningful opportunities,” she continued. “In this program, we create safe and fun spaces to learn from other Lakota women, enjoy intergenerational bonding, build new relationships, and find personal empowerment through positive self-esteem, connecting with Lakota culture, and celebrating traditional values.”

The Passion for Fashion includes a day of fun filled activities geared to build self-esteem. Teens will take part in icebreaking activities and a sit-down luncheon in the tribe’s Keya (Turtle) Cafe; hear keynote speakers; receive manicures, pedicures, makeovers and hair styling; find their dream dresses, shoes and accessories; and celebrate their transformed selves on a formal catwalk. They’ll make memories and new friends, and they’ll support each other as they work through difficult issues such as bullying, low self-esteem and poor body image.

This year’s Passion for Fashion’s theme is “in the spirit of planting seeds,” borrowed from Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn who said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

“This year at Passion for Fashion, we’re looking forward to exploring that theme both figuratively and literally, giving our young women an opportunity to learn more about native food sovereignty and sustainability as they learn about their own growth at this important time in their lives,” Garreau said. “At CRYP, we’ve always understood that the seeds we plant today will mean healthy growth in the future, for those young people and for the Lakota Nation.”

For this year’s Passion for Fashion event, the youth project needs new and gently used formal dresses in sizes 4 to 26, especially in sizes 16 to 26. It also needs shoes in all sizes, especially in sizes 9 to 12.  CRYP also asks for jewelry and hair accessories; makeup and bath sets; gift cards and cash donations. Staff and volunteers will take any contributed funds and make additional purchases based on need.

Teenagers from the Cheyenne River reservation who would like to attend this year’s Passion for Fashion event at Cokata Wiconi on Saturday, March 21 should contact the Cheyenne River Youth Project to let staff know they plan to participate. RSVP as soon as possible by calling (605) 964-8200 or sending e-mail to [email protected].

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