By Emily Williams
Sixty years have passed since the Linly Heflin Unit began its annual Scholarship Fashion Show, raising more than $6 million to help women in Alabama pursue higher education.
This marks the 35th year that the women’s service organization has partnered with Gus Mayer to host its annual fashion show, which will be held on Oct. 17 at The Club.
Members of the organization provide a sneak preview for members at the organization’s October meeting, said President Susan Alison. Those include a variety of looks from the Shoshanna brand as well as many other brands available from Gus Mayer.
“I don’t want to give away all of Gus Mayer’s secrets, but rumor has it that leopard print is big this year, and skirt lengths are longer,” Alison said. “Textured fabrics are making a splash, with leather and lace and metal embellishments. Colors are leaning toward the dark and subdued, but then a red dress will pack a vibrant punch.”
Beyond fashion, Alison said the best aspect of the event is that it is spent enjoying an out-of-the-ordinary evening with the knowledge that you are helping others, “in this case, raising scholarship dollars so more women can attend college.
“The music is peppy, the colors are bright, the girls’-night-out camaraderie is fun, and it’s wonderful to dream,” Alison said. “I dream of having those long legs and high cheekbones, but occasionally I spy something that I actually could wear.”
The Linly Heflin Unit was founded in 1919 and will be celebrating its centennial as January approaches, including by reprinting its acclaimed cookbook, according to Alison. The cookbook is available for purchase on the organization’s website, linlyheflin.org.
Funds raised through the cookbook sales and the fashion show go to the scholarship fund.
Unit Began by Rolling Bandages
The Unit began as a ladies’ service group of bandage rollers during World War I and has evolved over the past century to include a membership of more than 100 women from the Birmingham area. The Unit has grown from offering two scholarships in 1923 to 102 scholarships in 2017. In total, the Unit has awarded more than 3,000 scholarships.
Recipients are chosen initially based on their academic records, including their grade point averages and scores on the ACT and SAT, and their financial need.
“Then teams on our scholarship committee personally interview the finalists to get a feel for who is most deserving and will thrive in a college setting,” Alison said.
“It’s so difficult to narrow it down, though, because all of our finalists are outstanding students and have a huge need,” she said.
Many of the young women who receive financial assistance from Linly Heflin are number one in their classes as well as participating in clubs and organizations and volunteering in the community – all while holding down a job, as well.
“But what makes them so inspirational is often they do all of this under the absolute worst home situations,” Alison said. “They want to break the chain and are remarkably optimistic about carving a successful path, so it’s an honor to work hard on their behalf.”
Operating under the motto “Educate a woman and you educate a family,” Alison said, the women of Linly Heflin aim to help other women reach success.
“Historically, women have needed some extra boosts – in the workplace, in politics, with college admissions, at home – and we are our best advocates,” Alison said. “We know what works. We’ve lived it. We understand and relate.”
“Many former scholars return to help in one way or another, whether speaking at our events or contributing financially,” Alison said. “I imagine that is very satisfying for them to be able to pay it forward for some other aspiring young student who is nameless but they know well.”
For more information on the Linly Heflin Scholarship Fashion Show, visit linlyheflin.org/fashion-show.