While I was studying French in the city of Chicoutimi, Quebec, I spent a lot of my time visiting the heritage museums of the region. One museum held my interest: La Pulperie de Chicoutimi, an old milling site-turned-museum. During the months of October and November, 2019, they hosted a photography exhibit called Zoom Photo that showcased collections of photo-journalism from all over the world. They varied on a large range of different subjects, like politics, social justice, and culture. On a white, snowy November day, I visited the museum to check out the representation of women in these collections and the way that they expressed themselves, their femininity, and their culture through fashionable means, both traditional and progressive.

During the Fallas de Valencia festival in Spain, photographer Luisa Dörr made a collection of girls and women wearing beautiful traditional fallera dresses. These outfits were inspired by what women wore centuries before while working in the rice fields around Valencia. Their hair is done in a traditional 3 bun style designed with combs and jewelry that was passed down through the family. 

Photo credit: Luisa Dörr, Exhibited in Zoom Photo

Across the ocean, in Havana, Cuba, there was an event that was photographed by Diana Markosian that shows Pura, a young girl riding around in a pink 1950’s convertible on her quincieañera (15th birthday) while wearing a beautiful pink gown. The caption describes the tradition as a coming-of-age event where young girls are made to feel like princesses and live out a fairy tale of femininity. This collection is significant because Pura was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was younger and was told she would not live past the age of 13. Two years later she has shown to have proven that wrong as she lives out her 15th birthday in exuberance. 

Photographer Finbarr O’Reilly made a collection that featured 3 women modeling clothing by fashion designer Adama Paris in Dakar, Senegal. The dresses that the women wear are soft pink in color that have sheer skirts that sweep elegantly down towards the earth. Around the women are onlookers who watch them as they model the clothing, and they stay that way without breaking their composure. The caption explains that Dakar is growing as a Franco-American fashion city, where the annual Dakar Fashion Week is held.

Traditional regalia in fashion has been a magnificent marker of culture throughout history, as well as the progression of fashion and how that exemplifies femininity for women. The femininity shown holds significance in the culture from where these women come. The photography in the collections in Zoom Photo link the evolution of self-expression and cultural identification whether it be specific to the region or representational of the world. 

-Noelle Belanger
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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