Skirts are usually used to cover things up, but fashion designer Jasmine Zion decided to turn things inside out recently when she quilted a skirt based on vaginas to auction off at a fundraiser for a scholarship benefiting survivors of interpersonal violence (that is, violence between people who know each other). The fundraiser is part of Metro State University's student production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues.
Westword spoke with Zion about what sparked her idea, how she made her vagina skirt and what her grandmother might think of it.
Westword: Why this project?
Jasmine Zion: I was interested in the discussions about how there is this standard of beauty saying that vulva should be pink and pretty and neat. Both men and women have this misconception of what vaginas should look like, and I started realizing that not all vaginas look like that. There's the reality that women have an array of colors within their vulva, including a darker red, sometimes browns and purples and reds and pinks. You look at the fact that not everyone's inner-labia fit neatly into their outer labia, and you soon realize that labia are not always symmetrical. That's why the skirt I built isn't a perfectly symmetrical piece.
What inspired you?
After watching the movie V-day, I had this realization that women were making these quilts that were based on their own vaginas. As a fashion designer, I thought it would be cool to make that into a skirt project. I thought, what can I actually imagine doing with it? I don't want it to just sit in my closet not being enjoyed by other people. I heard that the Denver Feminist Alliance and Triota were putting on The Vagina Monologues again. I said that I wanted to make a vagina skirt. I told the girls who were working on it, I'd like to work with this project, and I'd like to donate the skirt that I make to the silent auction.
Talk about how you made the skirt?
I crafted a skirt block based on my body measurements. While it wasn't the end goal, I used it to shape the basic block pattern, the front, the back and the centerpiece, where the vagina is. Using those measurements, I figured out how big the vagina piece would actually be. I took those measurements to my Grandmother's quilting store to buy quilting fabric and quilting squares from her. They were all different shades of pinks and purples. Then I did a few different techniques including doing triangular cuts as well as rectangular cuts and started throwing them together to make different patterns with the quilting fabric. From there, I morphed the purple colors into the clitoris and the inner labia; then the reds and pinks were turned into the vagina opening and the clitoral highlights. I sculpted all the fabric to get the visual that I wanted, and then I used some old pink t-shirts for the urethra and old flannel fabric that I had for the outer labia and the rest of the skirt.
Did your grandmother know about the project?
I am going to surprise her with it, because it's my first quilting project. I just told her that I was buying a bunch of quilting stuff from her. When I'm finished, I'll probably send her some pictures and hopefully get a really good reaction from that. She's wanted me to quilt for a really long time now.
What kind of reaction do you think she will have?
That's an interesting question. I can't say for sure one way or another. I've been doing vaginal and feminine artworks for a very long time. I remember one picture I made was "The Monthly Monster," which was bleeding and very angry, and she thought it was funny. She might like it, or she might be shocked and surprised that I made this quilting project with a large-scale vagina. I think in the end, she might actually be really excited about it.
What are your thoughts about The Vagina Monologues?
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The Vagina Monologues helped me decide to study women's studies. It actually gave me more comfort and excitement about my own body and my own sexual experiences. I think it opened the flow for a lot of discussions, both with my mother and with other women who saw it. We had conversations regarding women's bodies. It's a very powerful experience to be able to hear these stories about how women have discovered their vulvas, their sexuality, their pleasure, their pain and their overall experiences regarding that body part. I think it's a really awesome thing to go to and everyone should go to it at least once.
How does this project relate to your other fashion work?
As a cos-player, I've done a lot of character costumes. As a designer, I've been paid to do a lot of other costumes as well as wedding dresses and formal evening wear. This is the first time I've actually done a project that was more artistic in this regard. I want to do a lot more of them, because I think they're more fun and exciting. Maybe I'll make some vagina bags or vagina pillows. I would love to do more stuff representing female genitalia.
Zion's quilted vagina skirt will be one of many items auctioned off Friday and Saturday night at The Auraria -- Vagina Monologues, February 21 and 22, at 7pm, at St. Catejan's, on the Auraria Denver Campus, 1250 14th Street, Denver. Tickets cost $10 and all proceeds go to benefit MSU Denver Student - Survivors of Interpersonal Violence. Order tickets here.