Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

How making a political statement is becoming a fashion statement

By: S.A. Falcon

The stark black words stand out against the yellow background on the mannequin. Looking at the figure gives an impression of forbiddenness, and trying to fathom the meaning behind such a unique piece of fashion is baffling. This dress, that was on display in the fashion department at Fullerton College, is not made out of traditional fabric, but recycled crime scene tape. 

“It is a crime for young ladies not to become models if they don’t look like what society says is normal,” says creator of the dress Patricia Helmick, a student in the  fashion department. This is an example of what some women face in the fashion industry. 

However, change is on the horizon. People in the fashion industry are raising their voices through their designs to call for change, for many different causes in society. Fashion is now becoming a new trend on how people raise their picket signs. 

Fashion has voiced a lot of social movements throughout history. However, it’s only getting stronger as people are using it as a way to speak up about about gender, the environment and mental health. 


Political Fashion has been a part of our culture for decades. It’s a way groups of people come together to address a social issue. An early political fashion movement was in 1903 with the suffragettes campaign when women marched dressed in white to demand their right to vote. 

Hillary Clinton dressed in a white pant suit in 2017 as she showed support for in coming President, Donald Trump. She appeared in white at Trump’s inauguration as a statement to show support for women, with representation of purity and protection for women in society. Political fashion continues to play an important part in society, in early 2019, Democratic women dressed in white protested  President Trump’s State of the Union address.

“Congresswoman Elizabeth Warren creates her own statement; she is well known to roll her sleeves up. She wears three-quarter sleeves, bright, strong and bold colors that work for her position as a strong woman with goals and an agenda,” says Gigi McMillan, founder of Purple Runway, an organization that advocates for survivors of domestic violence.

Political fashion is taking the world by storm, and the fashion industry is bringing back the trend in full force, with fashion designs that pertain to social and political movements.


Fashion can also give a voice to those who are afraid to speak. The movement called Purple Runway is a fashion show for those who have been affected by domestic violence. 

“Fashion has maintained its multibillion dollar industry for years,” says McMillan, who believes it’s a great way to get a message out to people without making them feel they’re being preached to. 

“We help people heal and recover from the inside and then shine the brightest on the outside,” says McMillan. 

Starting Purple Runway was a way of healing for Gigi, with something she loved which was fashion. It was a way she could help create change in society by using something she enjoyed as a voice to something she had to overcome. She is a Domestic Violence survivor, she started Purple Runway as a “journey of healing,” she said.

“I was lost, defenseless, angry, hurt, not happy and I was hurting from untapped healing…I said to myself, when I start over I want to be authentic to myself and to the people…that’s when Purple Runway was born,” she said 

In the organization’s fashion shows that are presented, purple is a color that stands out. It is worn for supporting survivors of  domestic violence. However, other colors are worn as well. It’s all clothing that represents love, strength and surviving. 

In addition to using fashion trends as a platform for their message,  Purple Runway also offers a way for people who have been affected by domestic violence to connect and heal. 

It’s more than fashion; it’s togetherness. Purple Runway also has an organization called I Thrive Sisterhood, where people can go on retreats, and get involved in workshops. 

These workshops help survivors grow and reclaim themselves. “We focus every day on women who are very focused on improving their self esteem, their self worth, and overcoming trauma,” says McMillan. 


For Helmick, creator of the crime scene tape dress, the political cause is body image. Her dress symbolizes how the bodies of women are being portrayed much like a crime in society. Women should instead be unapologetic about their bodies. They should be celebrated, says Helmick.

Wear what you feel comfortable in,” says Helmick. “Who has the right to dictate to women what we should wear?” 

Body image issues within the fashion industry is a subject that is constantly talked about. 

“It takes decades for things to finally be accepted across an entire society,” says Rachel Nevarez, a fashion professor at Fullerton College. ”To speed it up you need Patricia, and more people like her.” 

The market is reflecting these shifts in attitude. The sales in the plus size market grew from 17.4 billion in 2013 to 20.4 billion from 2016, according to a survey published by Bloomberg. That is a 17% increase in just three years. 

“What gets me excited is going to Target in the lingerie section and seeing images of models all shapes and sizes,” says Nevarez. 


The effects of climate change are becoming impossible to ignore, and the fashion industry is taking note. More fashion companies are using recycled materials to create fashionable pieces for consumers to wear. 

For example, Rothy’s shoewear makes shoes from recycled plastics. Rothy’s reports that  91% of plastic water bottles do not get recycled. They’re trying to change that and have upcycled over 37 million plastic water bottles to make into shoes. 

Fullerton College is also doing its part, where fashion students work with recycled materials to create one of a kind pieces that make their footprint to support the environment. 

“The newspaper donated paper so students can create clothes out of recycled newspaper,” says Renee Young, the chair of the fashion department at Fullerton College, describing past projects. 

Young shows her class examples of how to make clothing from recycled materials, and with each cut and fold a one of a kind piece is made. 

“Every other year to two years they do a recycled piece, from candy wrappers to Capri sun, and newspapers,” says Young. This gives students a chance to express their creativity through shining a light on environmental change.

Mario Santiago a fashion student made a dress out of the recycled newspaper with the help of his class partner. He imagined the dress as a Hawaiian style, yet flirty feeling. 

“I didn’t think I was working with paper,” says Santiago. “I wanted it to feel like a real dress, I would change some things so in my imagination I was working with real fabric.” 

People in the fashion world continue to look for ways to make clothes more environmentally friendly such as Santiago, who says he would definitely continue creating pieces out of paper and plastics. 

“If you are into art, you will always find a way to make something from scratch… from trash to fashion, or from trash to treasure,” he says.