In this Fashion Tribute to Belizean History designer Rebecca Stirm, history student Cherisse Halsall, and photographer Monica Gallardo partner to reveal the stories of four outstanding Belizean women through fashion.
As the smoke of the magnificent fireworks dissipated at midnight on the Eve of Independence many felt a swell of patriotic pride.
We all celebrate and express our “Belizean Pride” in different ways. We parade. We decorate, and we dance.
How did we decide to celebrate?
Well, it all began when I had the privilege of viewing Stirm’s mini collection in her studio earlier this month. I found myself reflecting on the understated elegance and graceful detailing of the pieces.
They evoked within me thoughts of old colonial Belize with its wooden mansion’s and red bricked cathedrals.
Through conversations between myself, Stirm, and photographer Monica Gallardo, we were able to come up with a plan for photographing the mini-collection as a “Fashion Tribute to Our History.”
A visit to the national archives allowed my discovery of four of our Belizean “Pathfinders” – Women of yesteryear who are worthy of recognition and honor for their hard work and dedication to our nation. They are nurse Vivian Seay, Dr. Bernice Hulse, businesswoman and former representative, Gwendolyn Lizarraga, and educator and social worker, Sadie Vernon.
On the Sunday morning following the festivities and celebrations of our country’s thirty-first birthday we visited four historical locations to photograph the pieces.
We photographed “Vivian” in a white lace and satin day dress worn by model Chloe Daly, at the first Protestant Church building to be erected in Central America, St. John’s Cathedral in Belize City.
Belizean “Pathfinder” Vivian Seay was educated in the Anglican Church school, and went on to become the second female citizen of British Honduras to be named “Member of the British Empire.”
This honor was granted due to her diligent work as a nurse, her volunteer service in the wake of hurricane Hattie, and her position as head of the Black Cross Nurses.
We chose to photograph “Bernice”, a formal white lace dress with long sleeves – worn by Naomi Stirm, in the ruins of the old Belize City Hospital.
Belizean medical “Pathfinder” Doctor Bernice Hulse was the first woman in Belize to receive a medical degree. She worked tirelessly for the eradication of tuberculosis in our country through the launching of a country-wide vaccination campaign. She is also distinguished as a brave Belizean veteran of World War II, who treated wounded soldiers at an emergency medical hospital in the United Kingdom.
Our team continued that afternoon in the heart of the old capital photographing “Gwendolyn”, in a straight cut grey pearl lace mini-dress with pearl detailing and delicately puffed sleeves.
Photographs of this dress worn by Model Judy Hoare, were taken at the Belize City Court house – a symbol of government in our country.
Belizean “Pathfinder” Gwendolyn Lizarraga earned the distinction of becoming the first Belizean woman to be named a Member of the British Empire as well as the first woman elected to the National Assembly.
She was most vocal about women acquiring their own house lots (an important feat prior to 1954 when only property owners were allowed to vote)
We ended the day on Belize City’s iconic swing bridge photographing Krista Cruz wearing “Sadie”, a grey and white, lace and linen day dress with tiny pearl buttons and lace detailing around the collar.
Belizean “Pathfinder” Sadie Vernon graduated with a master’s degree from the Earlham School of Religion at Earlham College and became the first native executive secretary of the Christian Church Council.
She is remembered fondly for coping with the needs of human suffering caused by Hurricane Hattie. In the aftermath of the disaster, she spent her days distributing clothing, food, and other goods.
As young women in Belize, launching out in our careers and interests, we are inspired by these women and grateful that we can enjoy and benefit from all they gave to make Belize what it is today.
Historical Research – Cherisse Halsall.
Photography- Monica Gallardo.
Fashion Design/Styling- Rebecca Stirm.
Models – Chole Daly, Naomi Stirm, Judy Hoare, and Krista Cruz.