By Elizabeth Keys
STILLWATER, Okla. —
“Scales on the wings of a delicate butterfly give it beauty, freedom and the ability to fly. Scales on armor protect a warrior in battle. Scales of a snake are shed to allow it to have a fresh new life. Women who have been the victims of domestic abuse inspire the imagination because they are strong warriors who are on the front lines of battle every day and need a coat of armor; they are moving on to a new life, and they are also beautiful, delicate women.”
- Hannah Keepers, OSU apparel design student
A free fashion show to spread awareness of domestic violence issues on Thursday evening has inspired Mary Ruppert-Stroescu’s students at Oklahoma State University to create apparel with a message of courage. Ruppert-Stroescu, assistant professor of apparel design and textile science, called for design submissions to model in the Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services fashion show as a class assignment for advanced students.
“My design concept for this dress was inspired by all of these characteristics culminating in the creation of the idea of a princess warrior with butterfly wing scales that have been touched by a fairy for strength,” said student fashion designer Hannah Keepers. “The pennies of the armor represent that seemingly small things become a strong force when put together. The delicate bags on the skirt show how even perceived worthlessness has potential for great beauty. These materials are layered and woven into a dress, giving women their very own freeing butterfly scales.”
Keepers has taken “leftovers” — Wal-Mart bags melted with an iron, pennies, a dish drying mat and dryer lint — and combined them with real wild flowers and butterflies to produce a creation symbolizing the metamorphous of a victim to a survivor.
When Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services Senior Counselor Melissa Oliver came to speak to the apparel design class, Keepers was reminded that domestic violence is an issue for all social classes and not something easy to simply leave or “get out of.” Keepers said about a month before she started working on her fashion project a dear friend was affected by domestic violence and Wings of Hope helped her begin to take steps to recover.
“We hope the fashion show is empowering to the models, volunteers and attendees to make a difference,” Oliver said.
Recognizing the problem with events promoting awareness is the goal of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Domestic violence tears apart homes and lives.
“Not everyone will come forward — or acknowledge that they need help,” Oliver said. “Awareness activities help the community recognize the problem — and when someone needs help — when they are ready to seek help, we are here to help them.”
Wings of Hope Executive Director Marie Abraham-Robinson said statistics show one in every four women are affected by domestic violence and the month’s activities help victims see the community is standing up to help while spreading the message about prevention and relief programs.
The fashion show at the First Presbyterian Church, corner of Sixth Avenue and Duck Street, begins at 6:30 p.m. Apparel design students will showcase their creations and many local retail stores will supply fashions for the models. Stores will display the apparel design students’ creations in their windows during October.
Thursday is also “Wear Purple Day.” Through history, purple has been a unifying symbol of courage, survival, honor and dedication, Abraham-Robinson said. Baskets of purple ribbons are placed throughout the community for anyone to wear to remember and honor those who have lost their lives at the hands of a person they once loved and trusted.
On Oct. 12, purple light bulbs will be distributed at Wal-Mart in Stillwater, Cushing and Perry to shine light on the problem. Anyone with a purple light bulb is encouraged to display them outside their house to paint the town purple. On Oct. 24, the Stillwater Public Library lawn will bear silhouettes symbolizing those who have lost their lives to domestic violence. That evening, a walk around Boomer Lake begins at 6 p.m. culminating with a candlelight vigil at 7:15 p.m. to honor victims. Several other events will be presented at local agencies and schools to promote awareness. Senior Counselor Brenda Gill is coordinating training for sexual assault response advocates who are volunteers helping the agency with compassionate care.
Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services has an experienced team of counselors, advocates and mentors whose everyday challenge is to help victims to heal and feel safe. Support is provided with sheltering, 24-hour help line, parent education and victim advocacy. For more information or to make a contribution to support services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims, contact 405-372-9922.