I must bear children, I must clean the house, I must cook, I must be beautiful, I must keep good hygiene, I must have the right measurements, I must be a good lover, I must be a saint, I must be a healer, I must be…
Everything is a must—I must accomplish many chores in my life, in order to keep other people’s life going. These responsibilities are like aprons that I must wear over my dress; I put one on then take it off and replace it with a different one. There is a dress for every occasion in my life. Each represents a task or an attitude I must posses in order to be a complete woman. In this body of work I exposed all the different roles I must be successful at as a woman. Although different religions and cultures impose these same ideas on women in different parts of the world, I too must follow each and every one of them. They follow me like ghosts. I must always be something for someone because I was born a woman and must fulfill my roles.
This portfolio came to life to answer the never-ending question, “when are you going to have another child?” In Women Must Bear Children, I answered that question. So, I can look like this! I have no desired to look like an over sized apron with hanging babies, tugging, and pulling asking for my attention. I hand sewed many stuffed dolls and adhered them to this dress.
Right after, Women Must Clean the House came to existence, I recycled my old kitchen rags on this dress.
Later I had to address another chore for a housekeeper—to feed her family. In Women Must Cook, kitchen utensils hang from a dress that resembles an apron.
Not only must I be a great housekeeper, but also must exhibit great beauty: Women Must Be Beautiful. This dress has the most items—objects that are needed in order to achieve beauty. From hair rollers, curling iron, hair dryer, to make up, acrylic nails, combs, brushes, and bobby pins.
In order to achieve beauty there needs to be cleanliness, Women Must be Clean. Tampons, panty liners, razors, soap, deodorant, and sponges, are the items that remind me of a clean body where odor and unwanted hair is limited to none.
I must also serve the duty of a nurse in Women Must Be Healers. On this white dress there are many small plastic bags that hold different herbs, medicinal plants, and other substances used for healing aching bodies.
But an unhappy body can also be cured with the power of love, lovemaking that is. In Women Must Be Good Lovers, I have embroidered different scenes of couples engaged in sexual positions where women must play the role of the provider of pleasure.
Women Must Have the Right Measurements is a dress that shows women’s bodies being part a dark debate for how they should be. The measuring tapes are positioned in the upper and lover regions of the body where most emphasis is placed on having voluptuous curves.
A place for prayer and devotion appears in Women Must Be Saints. A strong affinity for religious objects to keep women in good moral standing is fulfilled by the bible, a crucifix, images of saints, rosaries, medals, holy water, and scapulars.
Lastly, Women Must Be… on this dress only blank tags hang from it to invite observers to add to the list of chores that women must ascribe to.
I must wear all these dresses as my uniform. I must do as I am told, and I must achieve it all. I grew up observing these scenes of women satisfying a purpose, that of an unconditional servant.
Through the use of especially selected recycled dresses I have exposed women’s reality through garments. They all represent a form of oppression and limitation on women in different societies. Although this is my story, I believe it is that of many other females as well.