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Monarchs regally pose and design at denim day

Students brought their denim back to life and learned about sexual assault awareness month in April.

By Jasmine Alejandre, Staff Writer

Students try on pieces from fashion designer Carolyn Wilbourn at the Denim Day Makeover event at Valley College. (Savannah Greenly | Valley Star)

The Valley College Women Empowerment Club celebrated Denim Day by bringing old jeans back to life.

Monarchs were able to upcycle their denim and show it off during Denim Day Makeover. The annual day is celebrated to bring awareness to sexual assault and victim blaming.

“Denim day is important because it creates remembrance for everyone who’s been sexually assaulted or experienced something similar,” said Astghik Margaryan, the club president and the one who came up with the event. “We want them to take back the power and empower themselves with it.”

The significance of the day dates back to 1988, when an 18-year-old was sexually assaulted by her driving instructor — who spent only one year in prison. He used her jeans as a justification for his actions, and claimed it was consensual since they were tight and would only be able to be removed with her help. The next day, many women, upset and angered over the decision, wore their jeans to protest on the steps of the supreme court.

The news reached the California Senate and Assembly, and they did the same thing. Eleven years later, Patricia Giggans, executive director of Peace Over Violence, started Denim Day. Now every April is sexual assault awareness month.

Margaryan and the club’s advisor, Fatema Baldiwala, wanted to make sure the event also incorporated something for Earth Day, which is also in April. Upcycling old denim was a way to combine both important topics.

Fashion designer Carolyn Wilbourn joined the students at Valley and showed them some of her denim designs. She runs Wilbourn Sisters Designs with her sister Janice. They design and create clothes, as well as offer sewing classes.

The designer brought a U-HAUL truck full of her clothes and filled up tables and racks with clothing items. She had everything from skirts to coats, and even hats and jewelry she made with old denim. Students passed her clothing around and observed what she had created.

“Every pair of jeans and every jacket is different,“ said Wilbourn. “It all depends on you and your vision and how you use your imagination“.

The designer showed students how to cut their denim and turn it into something new. Wilbourn explained step by step what she had done with her pieces, and how students could do the same. Students were able to wear her clothing items, as well as their own, to walk the stage and show it off. The fashion show united all Monarchs and let them have fun with the clothes.

Marie Lemelle, representative from the Young Women’s Christian Association, a nonprofit women's organization, was also in attendance. She talked about the history of the day and also modeled some of the items.

“Clothes don't speak for someone or validate what they're doing,” said Lemelle. “This is a day to remember those who have suffered a trauma, and to come together and empower each other.”


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