Several years ago, Adele Ngoy, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, decided to form a local group that celebrates women’s diversity. And that group, Women Around the World, hosted its sixth annual International Women’s Day Fashion Show last weekend.

Tickets weren’t sold in advance, which made it more of a surprise when 350 people turned out at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Guild Hall in Portland for an inclusive party.

From a dinner with contributions from seven area restaurants to international entertainment acts to the fashion show itself, it was a night of pride.

“Can you believe how crowded it is?” said emcee Tory Ryden. “This is about celebrating the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.”

“All these people are your community. You are not alone,” Ngoy told the immigrants in the crowd. “We can bring everything from our old countries and share it with our new family and new home here.”

Most notably, Ngoy brought and shared her passion for designing clothing. Her spring collection – which, in Maine, includes jackets – was modeled by several young people, including her own children.

The other designer to feature an entire collection was Sahro Hassan, a 19-year-old originally from Somalia. She designed eight dresses and coordinating headpieces for the show.

Dozens of other women modeled fashions celebrating their ethnicities, with Angola being strongly represented and accompanied by a large cheering section waving – and even wearing – flags.

“It’s nice to see all women from around the world united. We’re all from the same earth,” said Olga Babb, wearing a costume representing Romania. “Russia and Ukraine are at war right now, but at the show we’re friends like we used to be. The culture is about hospitality and community.”

The fashion show included several children, including Amelia and Amanda Olaru, dressed in traditional Polish dresses. The 8- and 4-year-old sisters are trilingual in English, Polish and Romanian.

“It’s very different now,” said their mother, Dorothy Olaru, who was born in Poland. “People are so open to speaking different languages.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer based in Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

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