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These Planned Parenthood Dresses Totally Stole One High School's Fashion Show

"Don't eff with us. Don't eff without us."

Posted on May 25, 2017, at 3:18 p.m. ET

Every year, students at Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx have a fashion show of handmade designs — with one catch: No fabric allowed. This year, Karolina Montes and Zoe Balestri made their dresses out of Planned Parenthood stickers.

Erica Lansner

On the left is Montes, who's 17, and on the right is Balestri, who's 16.

"We've been best friends since 6th grade," Balestri said. "This year we thought after everything that's been happening in the world and with this country, it was important to make our dresses beautiful and fun but also to give them some sort of meaning. We decided this was the perfect way to support something we both strongly believed in."

In April, President Donald Trump signed a law targeting domestic funding for Planned Parenthood, a women's health service provider whose offerings include abortion services. In January, the president restored the Mexico City Policy, known by critics as the "global gag rule," which imposes abortion-related restrictions on US foreign aid. The international arm of Planned Parenthood has said that rule will cost the organization $100 million in funding, or about 25% of its budget.

Montes said, "it just seems like such an important part of our culture, that we need to have safer methods [of family planning] and we need to educate. That's the main the point, is to educate people."

Montes said the school loved the dresses. "The reaction was very supportive, very overwhelming," she said.

Erica Lansner

It's not the first time the fabric-free fashion show has been political, she added. "In the past, people have supported different things they care about. Last year, someone made their dress out of Bernie Sanders merchandise," she said.

Belastri made the top of her dress out of condoms. "They said, 'Don't eff with us, don't eff without us.' I thought that was really funny," she said.

Erica Lansner

"I actually sewed together the condoms with a needle. That took awhile, and I got lube all over my hands, which was kind of gross," she said.

For the skirt, she used a plastic shower curtain as a base, and then covered it in stickers — somewhere around 500, actually — and that also took a long time. "For hours I would just watch Netflix and put the stickers on," she said.

The top was fun and funny, she said, but the skirt has more political meaning for her. "Hoop skirts were really popular at a time when women weren't given the same access to things that men are.... I thought was kind of symbolic of that."

"I wanted to do something that looked like a dress but also looked like a sculpture," Montes said.

Erica Lansner

Her art teacher, Nancy Fried, who originated and oversees the fashion show, is also a sculptor, and she took some inspiration there. But she also wanted the statuesque quality to move the message. "[The design] had to be big, to represent something that is meaningful to you."

Easier said than done — Montes could barely walk in her design! "The hardest part is fitting it to your body, and to the curves. Tucking in different parts to make sure it accommodates your breasts and your butt — that's tricky! But you can't just make it flat," she said.

Montes has been doing the fashion show every year since 6th grade. (And Erica Lansner, who took these photos, has been shooting the show even longer — for 12 years!)

Montes and Belastri participated in the women's march and have been finding other ways to take a stand for women's rights, and Planned Parenthood is important to them, they said.

Erica Lansner

"They're trying to shut down Planned Parenthoods and make abortion illegal, and that really frightens and saddens me, because it's such an amazing thing that is provided to women," Belastri said. "I have friends who use Planned Parenthood services. It's been there for people in high school, in college, in adulthood, for people who can't afford to have a child, or for other circumstances. It's necessary."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.