Thursday night, two student organizations hosted a condom fashion show to challenge stigmas of sexual health. UNC chapters of Partners in Health Engage and GlobeMed partnered to bring the national Condom Couture movement to UNC for the first time.
Seven students and graduates designed clothing made of condoms, and the pieces were modeled.
Laura Weng, junior and president of PIH Engage, heard about Condom Couture before her time at UNC.
“I actually heard about Condom Couture before coming to UNC as a freshman, and it was around the time that I became interested in public health,” she said. “I spent that first year gauging people’s interest. At the same time we were developing PIH Engage as an organization.”
Weng said attending Duke’s Condom Couture event made PIH Engage realize it was time to bring the event to UNC.
Sophomore and GlobeMed campaigns chairperson Carly Michelakis was interested partnering with other student organizations.
“We have a lot of the same visions as PIH Engage, so we got involved with them. We thought the idea was interesting,” she said. “We got involved and worked on it together.”
Sexual health awareness was the clear focus of the event, but Michelakis said sexual health issues extend beyond the college campus.
“I think UNC does a really great job of offering a lot of resources,” Michelakis said. “It’s something that should be offered more outside of the college campus because that’s where we see the highest rates of STDs and HIV.”
“I think it’s important, too, to recognize the policy behind it all,” Michelakis said. “Talking about it is the first step to making people aware of the need to protect themselves.”
The fashion show included pieces like a mermaid-inspired condom “seaweed” skirt, condom pasties and a condom fringe ’20s dress. But the piece that won the high fashion award was a yellow chiffon dress made of condoms hand-stitched together. This piece was designed by UNC graduate Michael Porson and modeled by Melody Zelenz.
Designer Grace LeGrand said she wanted her model to feel empowered.
“Condoms are something you should feel proud to wear,” she said.
Sophomore model Nina Vukicevic was nervous before the show. She was not nervous about wearing a skirt of condoms — she was only nervous about being in front of so many people.
“I was not embarrassed about wearing the condoms at all,” she said. “I want people to know that safe sex is good, and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed to tell a guy to put a condom on.”
The event also featured the UNC Achordants and the Tar Heel Voices during intermissions.
But the event, which raised more than $200 for sexual education programs, focused on fighting the stigma of sexual health.
“Sex itself is a very intimate thing, and it’s not something people really discuss openly anyway,” Weng said. “Because that area comes with bad as well as good.
“It’s important to open the conversation and examine it.”