Political Fashion show :: Part 2

Last Sunday March 8th was International Women’s Day. In light of that, Berkeley’s Gabriella Network chapter put up a Political Fashion Show the previous Friday, to raise awareness about sex trafficking. The idea of a fashion show seemed to stand out, considering the topic of the campaign. One of the organizers, Princess Manuel, stated that she wanted to bring out the issue via a different medium, one that was striking and would surprise audiences.

And surprise it did. The first segment, though understated in terms of clothes, went straight for the shock value. Girls modeled t-shirts with printed numbers printed, where the numbers represented relevant statistics of sex trafficking.

The segment was concluded with a white tube dress that ended in a splash of purple at the hem, symbolizing an upside down purple rose.

Representing the Purple Rose Campaign, the color reflects the abnormality of a purple rose, paralleled with the use and modification of women in the sex trafficking industry.

There’s something about fashion shows (and clothes, and shoes and everything to do with fashion, really) that gets fashionistas in a frenzy. The Political Fashion Show escaped the apparent superficiality of fashion by incorporating a heavy dose of irony into their segments. The showcase of female bodies was a direct reference to their use and abuse in sex trafficking, while every design made a statement.

The most impressive thing about the event was the decreased focus on the fashion show. There were student-made videos, some poetry by students, Spoken word artist and VJ Ruby Veridiano Ching and Professor Joy Barrios of the University of the Philippines, as well as some very well spoken words by GABnet leader Judith Mirkinson.

The video, which presented advertisements for big brands such as Jimmy Choo, Dolce and Gabbana and Levis as examples of the commodification of women, was especially poignant. At BARE, we try our best to reflect the diverse personalities present in Berkeley, and we pride ourselves on presenting ‘real’ girls. Thus, it is easy to forget that in the real world of fashion, industry insiders face an everyday struggle against the
size zero phenomenon. And where size isn’t an issue, the public is faced with such ads that seem to undermine women’s position in the world. According to Judith Mirkinson, the fashion world is ultimately about the money, and about men putting these clothes on women. She says, ‘If fashion were all about women being beautiful, there wouldn’t be so much homogeneity and superficiality involved.’ She also believes that while fashion can be about how a woman wants to be perceived, these issues cannot be separated. Women want to feel good about themselves through the power of fashion, but fashion inherently prevents this feeling of self-worth.

A woman might use the clothes she wears to show the world who she is, and how capable she is. On the flip side, a woman might use the way she dresses to attract men. It is the latter that allows women to be commodified, and the worst part is, they accept it to an extent. The glamour and power of fashion notwithstanding, next time you go shopping, think twice about why you’re buying those clothes.

Photographs by Seika Iwao

Rucha Tatke
BARE Reporter, Publisher

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