For many, prom is a chance to don the gladdest of rags, a veritable battle of the fashionistas to enrobe oneself with the most well-tailored, intricately crafted, biggest designer name dress imaginable – thus becoming the envy of friends and acquaintances alike.
Prom is a coming-of-age rite of passage, a chance to shape one’s image for the future, before the unremitting – and often dizzying – mix of study and play that makes up college life. So the dress is of vital importance to many young women.
Most young women, though, choose to make a fashion statement – rather than a political statement – with their choice of regalia. Milan Morris however, is not most young women.
The 17-year-old from Florida made waves online after posting photographs of her prom dress, which was designed to honour and promote the Black Lives Matter movement.
The dress, which was designed by Florida-based designer Terrence Torrence, features photographs of 15 African-Americans who were the victims of police-involved shootings including Travon Martin, Sandra Bland and Michael Brown.
In the images, posted to Instagram, Morris writes: “Yes I’m black. Yes I’m 17. Yes GOD is using me to convey a message that’s bigger than me.”
Morris reportedly asked designer Terrence Torrence to create the dress for her after he designed her cousin’s wedding dress.
The 17-year-old, from Palm Beach, is a senior at Cardinal Newman High School, where she plays basketball. She will reportedly further her education at Boston College in the fall.
Describing her decision to don the now famous dress, Morris told CNN: “When someone loses a mother, father or child in unnecessary circumstances, it should not be overlooked but addressed”. The teen said that Torrence deserved the credit for the concept of the dress, telling Essence that “He was the mastermind behind this whole thing honestly.”
For his part, Torrence says that his aim was to use his gifts as a designer to draw attention to the message of the cause:
“With all the killings that was going on, it just hit me one day: you should put that into a dress.
“I wanted to paint a picture and put a story out there through my fashion.
“I wanted to show we could spread our message with not just posters and fliers but also with garments.”
Morris’ dress has sparked a colossal reaction online; her initial Instagram post has garnered well over 14,000 likes since it was first put up, and the response has been largely positive.
One user commented: “Your decision to wear such a beautiful dress will speak volumes without you speaking a word,” while another praised Morris for her “great message and great way to bring awareness”.
A recent Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner came in for widespread condemnation after perceived similarities between a scene in which Jenner is depicted handing a police officer a can of Pepsi, seemingly as a peace offering which is accepted, and an image of Ieshia Evans standing her ground in front of a considerable number of armed police officers.
While Jenner’s Pepsi-themed reconcilliation seems to work wonders in the advert, with the police officer turning to his colleague with a “Well, what d’you know?” style glance, Evans was arrested moments after the now famous photograph of her was taken.