These Elaborate Ball Gowns Were Inspired By Cancer Cells

A professor at the University of British Columbia designed a collection of evening gowns inspired by microscopic photos of the disease.

1. Jacqueline Firkins, an assistant professor in the Theatre and Film department of the University of British Columbia, recently designed ten very unusual evening dresses.

The designs had an unexpected inspiration: microscopic photos of cancer cells and the body systems they affect.

The dresses are part of a larger research project called “Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty,” aimed at creating a dialogue about the many ways cancer affects the body and body image of patients.

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2. “It really started from the idea of trying to figure out how to use my craft as an artist in conjunction with somebody way outside of my field,” Firkins said on the project’s website.

Firkins added, “As soon as I came up with the idea I started talking to some of my friends who’ve been through cancer about body image, about what they went through when they got diagnosed, what they dealt with when they went through treatment, and I thought, well, clothes are kind of the perfect art for this.”

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3. While the pink ribbon and related merchandising are the most frequent representation of the disease, many women who have battled cancer feel a disconnect with that imagery, Firkins said.

So she and colleague Professor Christian C.G. Naus teamed up to create a wearable project that was more connected to the disease itself.

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5. Each gown in the collection was inspired by cells in different stages of cancer:

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6. Small intestine channels that enhance (or prevent) cancer growth

Stephen Bond, http://Ph.D., Christian Naus, http://Ph.D. /

Tim Matheson /

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7. Brain tumor growing in a culture dish

Wun Chey Sin, http://Ph.D., Christian Naus, http://Ph.D. /

Tim Matheson /

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8. Brain cells on the move

Christian Naus, http://Ph.D., Cima Cina, http://Ph.D. /

Tim Matheson /

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9. Brain cells in a dish

John Bechberger, M.Sc., Christian Naus, http://Ph.D. /

Tim Matheson /

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10. Proteins in brain cancer cells

Christian Naus, http://Ph.D., Christine Fu. /

Tim Matheson /

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11. And cancer cells invading healthy brain cells.

Wun Chey Sin, http://Ph.D., Christian Naus, http://Ph.D. /

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12. “I love that people are talking about cancer in a different way, that people are looking at the cellular research now,” Firkins said.

“My hope is that somehow through fashion, I more closely tap into what a woman might be feeling about her body as she undergoes the disease, but simultaneously reflect a strength, beauty, and resilience.”

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13. Check out all the gowns in the collection and learn more about the project here.

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