Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fashion from Trash // My Recycled Candy Wrapper Dress


Over the weekend, I started the verrrry beginning stages of a much needed major reorganization of my studio/office/house. (I am not an organized person.  At all.  But that is an entirely different topic.)  Mainly I assessed the situation and came up with some plans and ideas, starting with the closet in my studio.  While looking through the madness, I came upon the dress seen above.  I'm not quite sure why I had it stuffed in the back of the closet (again, I am not an organized person), but decided to take it out and spruce it back up so I could share the story behind it with you guys.

This was actually a fashion project I did a few years ago in association with Chicago's Apparel Industry Board.  Several Chicago designers were asked to take part in an event called Sweet Chic that benefited the Spina Bifida Association of Illinois.  We were each assigned a brand of candy by the Tootsie Roll company (I was given Charleston Chew), then given excess candy wrappers and instructed to make gown from them.  The challenge was that the dress had to be wearable (yikes!), because it would be worn by a model in a runway show, then displayed at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art.  Thankfully we were allowed to incorporate fabric as well, but it was still not an easy feat!


I decided to design a late '50s vintage-inspired piece, with Audrey Hepburn as my inspiration. Being an eco-friendly designer, I was especially excited to be able to incorporate materials (the excess wrappers) that were otherwise landfill bound.  To keep with the sustainable/recycled theme, I decided to pair them with a vintage dupioni silk fabric.  I also used ripped pieces of of discarded tulle (also landfill bound) to give fullness to the skirt.  It took me over a month to construct the dress, mainly because the wrappers themselves presented a major challenge: they ripped when I tried to sew them with my machine.  Even when I attempted hand sewing, the hole made by the needle created an instant tear.  I had to experiment with an endless variety of methods in order to successfully attach them to each other and the fabric, but in the end, it was more than worth the countless hours and late nights.


This was the first of two occasions that my designs have been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and it was an incredibly thrilling experience for me.  In addition how honored and elated I was to have something I created on display at one of my favorite museums, it was awesome to have visual proof that you really can create art from materials otherwise considered to be useless.  It was also pretty amazing knowing that all proceeds from the tickets to the exhibit were used to benefit local children suffering from Spina Bifida.

Have you ever created upcyled art or fashion from reclaimed items or materials normally considered to be trash?

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22 comments:

  1. so fun!!! reminds me of the project runway episodes when they have to go into the $1 store or somewhere like that. that is so awesome it was featured at the museum! im always blown away at how much you have done in this life. you amaze me. sorry i havent emailed you back yet, im waiting for a quiet moment where i can focus on it instead of a short nonsense reply. love you sweets!!!!

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    1. No worries lady! And you are the sweetest. Love you!

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  2. This is so amazing, I can't believe you made that!!! How awesome that it was at the museum of contemporary art too, that is major! Thanks for showing it to us!! :-)

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  3. This dress came out great and your sketch is adorable. :)

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  4. omgosh! how super cool is this!!!!

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  5. so cute! you are very talented! Thanks for sharing.
    Dana
    cereusart.com

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  6. that looks amazing! sounds like a project runway challenge :)

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  7. that is so awesome. i would totally wear that in a second! can't believe those are candy wrappers. amazeballs!

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  8. it's like a project runway challenge! love what you came up with - great dress, especially considering you made it with candy!

    brittany

    prettylittlevintage

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  9. Whoa, that is so creative! I really love it!

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  10. melissa, i remember this dress! it's the reason i started following your blog. i thought this is a girl who can make something beautiful, & unique out of something others would throw away. :)

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    1. Yes! I originally mentioned it in a short post way back when I first started the blog. So awesome that it was the reason you started following. :) xo

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  11. That's awesome! What a fun challenge for a great cause!

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  12. You guys all rock. Thanks so much for your comments and kind words! It's fun to look back on it... Seems like so long ago now. xo, m

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  13. Wow!!! That is too cool!!

    http://shannonhearts.blogspot.com

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  14. I love seeing dresses made out of candy wrappers, old maps, any kind of alternative materials (probably one of the reasons why I love watching project runway). It's so cool to see what people come up with when they try something new! So, how did you manage to get the wrappers to stay on the skirt?

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    1. After trying to machine sew, hand sew, use fusible webbing and an iron (bad idea; the wrappers were plastic, not paper!), and several kinds of glue, I ended up using a concoction of fabric glues and spray adhesives. Using spray adhesive sort of took away from some of the eco-friendliness, but I was desperate at that point. I adhered the wrappers to each other as well as to the fabric, then used my sewing machine and serger to see the fabric together, and hand sewed the hem and some of the detailing. :)

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  15. That is SO cool! It reminds of all the unique materials people are required to use on Project Runway.

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  16. Wow, you crafty lady! This dress reminds me of Cinderella's in a a way and I am sure yours was the best, I can see the perfectionist in the details.

    Do you happen to have more of that craziness to show us?

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  17. I LOVE it! And I know what a pain it can be to work with non-traditional materials - I've made two different outfits out of blue tarp (like the kind at Home Depot, plus the plastic sheeting distributed by FEMA), plus lots of other weird stuff. Weird materials can be a pain, but so rewarding once it's all done!

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