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?