Hildegard Angel
Zuzu Angel Institute, Rio de Janeiro


Once upon a time, there was a dress that became a symbol of protest against the Brazilian dictatorship.

In 1971, on the eve of the day designer Zuzu Angel would leave go to the United States to present yet another collection in a great show, she had the conviction her son had been murdered during a session of torture in a Brazilian Air Force base. She then saw that could be an opportunity to denounce this to the world. In record time she created a delicate collection, which most representative dresses were a triptych made of the most pure white cotton, with ingenious embroidery representing cloistered children, the sun behind bars, military caps, Armed Forces jeeps and doves painted black, all in a singular language, infantile, a counterpoint to that accentuated the dramatic density of the denouncement. She also created dresses with bands of mourning on the sleeves, the collars, a custom of the interior of Brazil, called “bands of disgust”, always with her Angel-symbol, that represented her Angel son, flying over all the suffering represented in her dresses.

The international news agencies were invited. And they sent their journalists. After the emotionally charged presentation, Zuzu appeared on the catwalk in black and with a black veil, with a belt of crucifixes at her waist (as Madonna did 30 years later!) and with an angel at her neck. The news of the denouncement made in the first political protest fashion show in the fashion history was published in newspapers of several countries. And Zuzu was not charged with violating the Brazilian National Security Law, which prohibited citizens from “saying bad things of the country abroad”, which meant denouncing the atrocities. Intelligently, she presented her fashion at the house of the Brazilian general-consulate in New York, Lauro Soutello Alves:  the consular's residence is considered Brazilian territory. Zuzu performed with great talent and incredible sense of marketing the great tragic role of the mater dolorosa. She invoked to her struggle the capacity to produce a theatrical truth, a hyper-reality of her suffering that was useful to her cause. She gained sympathy through her pathos, through her charisma and her public attitude and coherence. Dedicated to the arts and to fashion, she incorporated one more struggle into her life, this outrage, this sermon.

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