These Two High School Students Made Dresses Supporting Planned Parenthood Out of Stickers And Condoms

They didn't just make a fashion statement. They made a political statement.

Every year, the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, New York holds its annual Fieldston Fashion Show,  a time for teacher Nancy Fried's sculpture students to create clothing out of anything — except fabric, of course. Over the years, they've created outfits out of alternative materials such as candy, Legos, and comic books. Since the show began 14 years ago with only 10 students, it has grown to include more than 70 participants this year. 

This year, two students didn't just push the envelope with their choice of materials, but in their choice of message, too. 

Karolina Montes, 17, and Zoe Balestri, 16, both high school juniors, created two floor-length gowns showcasing their support for Planned Parenthood. "… We wanted our dresses to not only be beautiful, but also have some sort of meaning further than a fashion show for high school," Montes told A Plus via email. 

Montes (left) and Belastri (right) created their dresses entirely out of informational materials from Planned Parenthood. Erica Lansner  

Though Montes and Belastri knew they wanted to make their dresses together from the moment they received the assignment, they didn't know what materials they'd use or what their garments would represent. The students threw around a few ideas before landing on Planned Parenthood. Because both students are "big supporters" of the non-profit national healthcare organization, they knew it was, well, a perfect fit. 

From there, they envisioned making dresses out of Planned Parenthood stickers. However, after contacting the organization about their project, the students received several different materials, including pamphlets, stickers, pins, and condoms from Planned Parenthood. 

"When Planned Parenthood sent us different materials, including condoms, I thought making the top out of condoms would be a cool way to not only support Planned Parenthood, but also some of its messages, such as safe sex," Balestri explained. "I ended up sewing around 40 condoms together." 

Belastri even accessorized with Planned Parenthood-themed shoes.  Erica Lansner

Her choice in a hoop skirt — made out of a shower curtain, shaped by PVC pipe, and covered with more than 500 neon pink stickers — was not merely fashionable, but intentional. "The hoop shape itself was more meaningful to me than just a silhouette figure," she explained. "At the time when hoop skirts were in style, women weren't afforded the same rights as men, and had a very strict societal acceptance."

Like Balestri, Montes used stickers for the top portion of her dress, as well as some pins. She began, however, at the bottom of her dress, strategically layering pamphlets up to her waist. From there, the dress's sticker bodice posed an additional challenge to Montes because she had to fit the top exactly to her body's measurements. Her cousin, Gabby Montes, helped her make the necessary adjustments.

From ideation to execution, both dresses took the students about a month of work — both in and outside of class — to complete. All that time and effort was well worth it. While both dresses make impeccable fashion statements, they make even more significant social and political statements.

"More than anything, we wanted to spread Planned Parenthood's message. Planned Parenthood provides so many different services for so many different women," the students explained. "What PP provides is incredible and as women, especially young women, we must step up to fight for the protection of these services and our reproductive rights." 

They hope their message resonates with a broad audience and contributes to the ongoing conversation advocating for equal and accessible healthcare. 

They also hope their dresses inspire others "to use different mediums to create work that impacts society in a positive light." But even more importantly to them, they hope that by showing a creative commitment to an important cause, they can empower those who might not know about Planned Parenthood to research its variety of healthcare services for both women and men. "There is a stigma surrounding the organization," they explained. "[But] Planned Parenthood provides educational services, contraception, and other important procedures and checkups like pap smears and breast exams." 

And while their statement-making dresses may be done, the students' advocacy work is not. "I would love to continue incorporating important themes in my artwork," Montes said. "I'll most likely start a painting over the summer." Though Balestri did enjoy making her dress, what she really loves is writing and reading. "I find politics very interesting so, in the future, I want to continue writing about what I feel passionate about, what I would like to see changed in the world, and seeing how I can make a difference through my words and actions," she concluded. 

As they've already proved, the world isn't just their runway — it's their canvas. 


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