Each year, the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx holds a fashion show for its students. There are only two rules: The designs must be handmade and there’s no fabric allowed. Needless to say, students get super creative. This year, Karolina Montes and Zoe Balestri stole the show when they walked the runway in dresses constructed from Planned Parenthood stickers.
Montes and Balestri may not be old enough to vote, but both teens are passionate about politics and they’re deeply disturbed by Donald Trump’s repeated efforts to federally defund Planned Parenthood.
“This year we thought after everything that’s been happening in the world and with this country, it was important to make our dresses beautiful and fun but also to give them some sort of meaning,” Balestri told BuzzFeed News. “We decided this was the perfect way to support something we both strongly believed in.”
Balestri’s top is constructed from condoms. “They said, ‘Don’t eff with us, don’t eff without us.’ I thought that was really funny,” she explained. “I actually sewed together the condoms with a needle. That took awhile, and I got lube all over my hands, which was kind of gross.”
She used a plastic shower curtain as a base for her skirt, and then covered it with approximately 500 Planned Parenthood stickers. Although the top was meant to be humorous, the skirt had a more serious meaning. “Hoop skirts were really popular at a time when women weren’t given the same access to things that men are…I thought was kind of symbolic of that,” Balestri said.
Montes opted to design a dress that also “looked like a sculpture.” The statuesque quality was key to the message — the big design represents just how important this cause is to Montes. “The hardest part is fitting it to your body, and to the curves. Tucking in different parts to make sure it accommodates your breasts and your butt — that’s tricky! But you can’t just make it flat,” she said, adding that the gown wasn’t exactly easy to walk in.
Montes and Belastri’s activism extends far beyond their school’s fashion show. Both teens participated in the Women’s March and have actively sought out ways to help Planned Parenthood and other women’s causes.
“They’re trying to shut down Planned Parenthoods and make abortion illegal, and that really frightens and saddens me, because it’s such an amazing thing that is provided to women,” Belastri said. “I have friends who use Planned Parenthood services. It’s been there for people in high school, in college, in adulthood, for people who can’t afford to have a child, or for other circumstances. It’s necessary.”