Portland’s hottest fashion show—a thrift shop

Submitted by Kay Helbling

The Albertina Kerr Center in Portland is not a high end fashion boutique. It’s a thrift shop. It does not staff successful retail buyers. Instead, the Center is predominantly run by over 400 volunteers. Clothing is not adorned by runway models. Instead, you’ll find volunteers—ordinary men and women who’ve kept themselves in extraordinary shape. So, what makes it one of the most successful and “in demand” showings in town? I would sum it up in two words: purpose and poise.

Albertina Restaurant’s daily lunches and fashion shows have become the place to have lunch in Portland. Patrons enter a building filled with history. It opened its doors in 1907 as the Albertina Kerr Nursery, a protective home for abandoned children and providing adoptions of newborns.  

Guests are served the gourmet lunch of the day in one of two beautiful garden rooms filled with fresh flowers. Then, the show begins. Knowing the purpose for the income generated by the show, the models proudly and gracefully enter the room. Pulling fashions, accessories, and props directly from Albertina’s Thrift Shop”. The models use their sense of fashion to present new or used, designer, or standard retail fair donated to the shop by many individuals and businesses. 

Olivia, your OregonWomensReport fitness guru (Tuesday’s postings), volunteers time as a model. In her latest show, she not only sold the clothing she was modeling, but also the book she was carrying. From the purse in her ensemble, she’s been known to pull out one of the many new swimsuits Jantzen donates for the shop’s spring and summer line.

Everyone enjoys the energy and camaraderie of the day. After lunch, some guests stroll the grounds. Others browse through the many rooms in the thrift shop. There they not only find casual, high-end, or after-five evening apparel for women, but also separate rooms for men’s clothing, linens, dishes and, of course, the cozy book room where Olivia found her selection. 

This fashion show is quite an attraction, but the Albertina Kerr Center is so much more than a very special lunch spot. It is a very special non-profit organization. They put to good use 91 cents of every dollar they receive to work with children who have emotional or mental health challenges, individuals with developmental disabilities, and creating create possibilities for a better life for families.

Anyone who knows me knows fashion would not be my topic of expertise. But, I can spot something grand when I see it, and the Albertina Kerr Fashion shows certainly fit the bill—in very many ways.

For more information, you can go to their website at AlbertinaKerr.org.

Kay was an insurance adjuster and executive for 15 years, a small business owner and a teacher for 10. But, her most fulfilling work has been as a mother of her two boys. She is now looking forward to an empty nest with her best friend—her husband

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