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Clothed in Confidence: Foundation4 Domestic Violence Prevention

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Was her soul shattered when he told her no one would love her as much as he did? Was it the time he kicked her in the thigh, leaving a perfect foot-sized and foot-shaped bruise? Or was it the moment she realized she had been there for 18 years and if she didn’t leave soon, she might not live to see another birthday? Leslie wasn’t sure, but after years of counseling and soul seeking, she narrowed it all down to one phrase: lack of self-confidence.

In early 2012, nearly nine years after she left her abuser, Leslie and her sister decided to start a non-profit that would eventually be renamed Foundation4 Domestic Violence Prevention, or F4DVP. The organization’s purpose would be, and still is, to educate. A surprising outcome of their primary fundraiser has been to create space for healing through fashion. 

Clothed in Confidence: Hats & Heels is going into its fourth year in 2020. The fashion show features 24 models wearing the latest spring trends including hats and heels. The guys get a break on the heels! 

What’s incredibly unique to Clothed in Confidence is not the styles that are modeled but the stories that are shared. Every fourth model is a domestic violence survivor. Before the model takes the runway, a short video that depicts the essence of their abuse plays. When the model takes the platform and begins her or his walk, there isn’t a dry eye in the audience and the standing ovation, cheering and encouraging words give the survivor a sense of confidence s/he had long forgotten. 

“The first year we held the fashion show, we started to understand the power of telling the stories,” said co-founder Tracey Passantino. “The quality of their videos was embarrassing as they were shot on an iPad with bad lighting and poor sound. Yet the audience understood that each survivor needed to know that their worth as a person was not compromised by what they experienced.”

A 2019 survivor model explained, “I was honored to participate in Clothed in Confidence. My prayer is that others are inspired to get free as well. Sharing my story made me feel free from the shame that controlled me for 20+ years!”

Funds raised from Clothed in Confidence: Hats & Heels are being used to develop an education model for elementary and middle schools. F4DVP envisions the model as one that students barely notice and teachers can easily plug into existing lesson plans. The ultimate goal is for the materials to be used in such a way that a foundation of self-worth is established during early elementary school. Values identification occurs in mid-elementary school and learning to set boundaries against values is taught in sixth through eighth grades. Concept testing has been partially completed and plans to conduct a fourth-grade pilot test in spring 2020 are being finalized. 

Clothed in Confidence: Hats & Heels will be held in April 2020. For details about modeling or supporting the event, visit