“Carrying around a bag of 200 condoms gets people asking questions,” said Shivani Dave ’17, one of the organizers of this year’s Condom Couture Fashion and Jazz Show. Getting people talking, talking about HIV/AIDS and safe sex, is exactly what the show aims to do.
ProHealth, a Vassar student organization committed to promoting health equity, will host their annual Condom Couture Fashion Show at Ferry House on Friday, November 8 at 7 p.m. As the runway show’s name may reveal, Condom Couture is by no means a typical fashion show.
Expect to see members of the Vassar community sauntering down a runway, clad in garments made entirely of condoms in order to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and promote safer sex practices.
“Students will be modeling and designing. In the past we’ve seen dress constructions using garbage bags and lots of duct tape,” explained Dave. “Every design is unique and mimics an ‘Anything But Clothes’ type of outfit.”
Secretary of ProHealth Sara Mincer ’15 spoke to the kinds of outfits one might see at the show. “Dresses are the most popular item that people make,” she said. “Some will make vests or shorts, but for the most part it’s dresses and skirts.”
However, full outfits made entirely of condoms, as students designing for Condom Couture have produced, require a large number of the contraceptive, and ProHealth has decided to take several precautions to lower waste, a show of this nature may produce.
“We are very aware of how wasteful such an event can be. We are encouraging designers to keep condoms in their wrappers and use tape and other adhesives so that they can be donated to student fellow envelopes after. We have purchased un-lubricated, colored condoms that are generally in surplus from Trustex—though they are not expired,” said Dave. “Condoms that are opened or punctured will be composted and all other materials that can be recycled, will.”
“Honestly, it’s a fun event,” attested Dave. While the fashion show may be a fun way to encourage students to talk about safer sex practices and public, global health issues, as Dave asserted, the upbeat event carries undertones of a much darker and more serious issue.
ProHealth’s central purpose of the runway event is to educate students on the continuing epidemic of HIV/AIDS, in our communities and abroad.
Admission is free, but the club is hoping to raise $3000 in donations and plans to split the proceeds between two organizations: FaceAIDS, a group who works to inspire young people in Rwanda, the U.S. and other nations to rise up in their communities and schools to combat HIV/AIDS, and Poughkeepsie’s Catharine Street Community Center, which has an HIV medical support outreach program to provide education for eight HIV-positive individuals.
ProHealth chose FaceAIDS and the Catharine Street Community Center as recipients for the proceeds from the fashion and jazz show with a clear strategy, so Vassar students should know that their donations, if they choose to give, are going to what ProHealth believes are good organizations.
Dave said, “FaceAIDS is a Partners in Health organization that we have continuously worked with, as we really support its model for a good NGO. The organization is completely student-run and is focused on providing comprehensive medical care, including education, job support, food, shelter, transportation and medical care. Most importantly, we know where our money is going and it is an organization that works to empower the community and its people to provide lasting care, rather than a one-time donation.”
While FaceAIDS is an organization that seeks to address AIDS awareness on a global scale, ProHealth would like to express the message that HIV/AIDS poses a problem on a more local level as well.
“We also really wanted to make sure that we acknowledge the public health issues that affect our own community and decided to work with the Catherine Street Community center. It is important that we acknowledge that HIV/AIDS is not a problem of the ‘others,’” said Dave.
While the Condom Couture Fashion Show is by no means a new event to the Vassar campus, this year’s show will be a little different from years past when the show was more low-key. This year, the strutting will be held in Ferry House, as opposed to the show’s traditional setting in the Villard Room. It will be immediately followed by a jazz concert.
“We wanted to make it a more open and fun event,” said Mincer. “In the past it was held in the Villard Room, but it wasn’t as open for people to come to, and in some ways it wasn’t as casual. People might be more likely to come to the Ferry House because the atmosphere is less formal.”
“We are hoping to have as many jazz bands perform as possible,” said Dave. “In between sets we are planning on having students speak about our organization, HIV/AIDS awareness and how to get involved or stay educated,” she added. While the format of the show has changed, the ultimate goal to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and safer sex remains the same.
“[Condom Couture] will include a fashion show, educational blurbs about our club and campaign, and the announcement of a winner of the best outfit,” explained Dave. “The show will be djed by a Vassar student to run for an hour, and then will be followed by performances from some of Vassar’s jazz bands,” she added. The jazz show is expected to run until 10 p.m.
Mincer reiterated the significance of the event, and how HIV/AIDS is an epidemic that does, in fact, affect college-aged people.
“[HIV/AIDS] is something very real that can and does affect the lives of college students,” she said.