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Poppenhusen fashion show takes trip through history

College Point’s Poppenhusen Institute was decked out in fineries Saturday night, for “Fashion of the Decades”, a fundraiser event featuring America’s evolving clothing over the years.

From the time of King George VIII to the modern era, the evening was a chance for community members to enjoy food, music and watching a parade of neighborhood elites sashay across the floor in clothes of forgotten ages.

“We’ve come a long way, baby,” the evening’s emcee said at the close of the event, signifying the close of a tour-de-force through the clothing that has defined America since before its founding.

The fete was the only chance many may ever get to see local dignitaries in full historical costume. State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), wearing a full dark beard and colorful Union Civil War general uniform, fake-stabbed friends in the audience with a plastic saber; Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of Community Board 7 wore a sequined flapper’s uniform as she jitterbugged her way across the hall; and James Healy, vice president of the Poppenhusen Institute was a Prohibition-era gangster in all black with a violin gun case.

Freshman Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) made a splash despite being new in his position, donning a blue American Revolutionary War soldier’s uniform and standing at the front of the room like a proud fighter while the attendees listened to the story of New York’s role in the war with the British.

“No taxation without representation,” Halloran yelled like a war cry from that distant age as he left the floor.

The affair also featured a raffle with prizes including a gourmet basket, tickets to a production of “The Good Doctor” being staged at the Poppenhusen Institute by the Phoenix Players theatre group, and historic books.

The fashion show was such a hit that when Susan Brustmann, director of the Poppenhusen Institute, asked if attendees and participants would like to repeat it again next year she received a rousing round of applause.

“We’ll do it again. Maybe every other year,” she said, exhausted after planning, organizing and hosting the first-time affair.

Most of the costumes were rented at a considerable discount from Rubies’ Costumes Co. in Richmond Hill, and some were donated by the Phoenix Players.

The 142-year-old landmark Poppenhusen Institute building is located at 114-04 14th Road in College Point.

Built by College Point’s benefactor Conrad Poppenhusen, the original charter of the institute declared it open to all people. It has housed a bank, library, court room, sheriff’s office, two jail cells still in the building and more in its time, but is best known for opening in 1870 the first free kindergarten in the United States.

Today the Poppenhusen Institute serves the College Point community by providing a variety of lessons, tours, lectures and rental space.

For more information send an e-mail to or call 718-358-0067.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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