Over the past few years, fashion shows featuring dresses made of condoms have sprouted up in the effort to promote protected sex. The gowns and skirts made of condoms have been seen on runways at college campuses, Planned Parenthood events, and even a well-funded trade show in Beijing.
Usually, the dresses are made of male condoms (your usual drugstore selection of Trojan, Durex, and the like). But two organizations at AIDS 2012, a conference focused on state of the global fight against AIDS happening this week in Washington D.C. had a different idea. They staged a fashion show with garments fabricated from female condoms.
For the July 23 show designers from countries including Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Ghana, The Netherlands, and the U.S. fashioned two kinds of female condoms into dresses, which six women and one male model wore for the show.
The women's dresses were made of FC2 condoms, the most popular female condom, while the male outfit was fashioned out of the CUPID female condom, which was just recently prequalified for official certification from World Health Organization. The show was a joint effort between the Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Joint Programme, a Dutch organization, and the Muthaa Foundation, which works on community development in Kenya.
"The goal of the fashion show was — in a fun and attractive way — to raise awareness about female condoms and advocate for universal access to female condoms," explained Nienke Blauw, advocacy officer for UAFC. "There was a very positive reaction to the show, which we were very happy about," she added.
Female condoms are worn by the women during sex, and look somewhat like a larger version of a male condom, but with rings on both ends (only one is open). The FC1, an early version of the female condom, came out in the 1980s. The FC2 was released in 2009, and has risen in popularity thanks to its more comfortable material. According to the American Pregnancy Association, female condoms are 79% effective in preventing pregnancy and 85% effective in preventing the spread of HIV.
Advocates have made a significant push for female condoms in the fight against HIV and AIDS, noting that the female condom is the only female-initiated method to effectively stop the spread of the virus. Yet many women are unaware of the product itself, or unaware of how to use it.
The UAFC is also trying to promote the female condom at AIDS 2012 by getting thousands of advocates to signify their support by signing paper dolls, which they'll string together in attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest chain of paper dolls. (They currently have around 15,000 but need to get to 28,000 by the end of the week.
Aesthetically, the Female Condom Fashion Show designs might not have popped in quite the same way male condom outfits do, but considering the limited styles of female condoms (they don't yet come in all the bright colors male condoms do), the results were impressive:
Here are some looks from previous condom fashion shows:
At a health expo in China:
From the Nebraska AIDS Project's "Project Condom" show:
At the University of Oregon Condom Fashion Show: