Rebecca has been working on fashion projects throughout the year with her History & Literature with Fashion 8th grade course. When a local reuse sewing shop announced a fashion contest, she was eager to enter. What followed was the Eco-Fashion Design Project.
Below you will find the task and the judging criteria along with Rebecca’s own words regarding her project.
The Denim Plus Eco-Fashion Challenge
Enter original or redesigned fashions and accessories made from reused denim, plus at least one other reused material (thread & fasteners can be new). All ages and skill levels are invited to enter. You may enter as an individual or as a team. Original designs are encouraged, but refashioning an existing garment is allowable.
Denim Plus Eco-Fashion Judging Criteria
The entries were judged by a multi-generational panel on the following criteria:
- quality of construction
- non-wasteful use of materials
- and general coolness
The Vision of the Eco-Fashion Dress
The general idea of my dress was to have a bell tutu on a denim bodice with a swinging grapevine of ruffles and doodads. From sketch to the finished tutu, the dress is my original work. Enjoy the story of my dress with pictures and facts.
What is Ethical Fashion?
The idea with eco-fashions is to use clothing and textiles already used or in need of rescue and turn them into something new. The fashion industry is infamous for churning out garments at the expense of the workers who make them. Ethical fashion is the new way to go.
- It doesn’t support exploitation of factory workers.
- It’s better for the environment- many of the processes of preparing fabric for garment making is toxic
- We have literally tons of abandoned textiles and clothing already- so reducing the demand for new fabrics and clothing is a smart idea.
- You can make something truly unique -instead of only wearing “off the rack” clothing.
- Choose a selection of well made and timeless pieces for your wardrobe- which can be mixed and matched with a few things and you’ll have less to steward and a variety of good looking items to wear at any time.
I am delighted to learn that I am not cheap! I’m just into ethical fashion.
Eco-Fashion Dress Materials
A combination of sewing “stashes” came together to provide the materials for this project. The only new material in the dress is the thread in my sewing machine. Below is a list of the rescued items I used with their previous uses:
- Denim- old work jeans
- Black Tulle- an underskirt from an old prom gown (the material from the gown was already used in a project and this tulle was leftover from that)
- Tshirt- a two year old 4-H Duck Race shirt given to me as a prize
- Black Trims- leftover from a Steampunk doll gown I made this year
- Ruffle- leftover from a Civil War Ball gown I helped to make two years ago which was originally from a prom gown
- Bias tape- purchased as a rescued item from Sew Green and given to me as a gift last year
- Zipper- rescued for reuse from Sew Green and given to me as a gift last year
- Rhinestones- leftover from a beading project for a prom gown from many years ago
- Flowers- Dryer sheets I saved and vinyl which was left here when the previous owner of our home left some of her sewing stash for me (knowing I love to sew!)
- White/Red Tulle- leftover from projects in a friend’s sewing stash
- Serger Thread- The thread is 30 years old and came with my serger which was given to me as a gift from an online friend of my mom’s who sent it to me after reading that I would love to have a serger.
The Making of an Eco-Fashion: The Process
Making the dress was a lot of fun, here are some of the things I did.
- Draped fabric on the dress form to see what would work
- Took the denim, sewed it into one long piece,
- Serged the edges and attached a zipper to construct the bodice
- Sewed darts into the denim to make it fit my dress form and cut the armholes
- Cut the bottom off of a 2XLtshirt, gathered it, and attached it to the bodice
- Cut two long strips of white tulle, gathered them, and sewed them to the skirt where it met the bodice- repeated the process for a second layer
- Cut red tulle with a wavy rotary blade, used a gathering foot to gather the red tulle and sew it to a piece of red ribbon- tacked the ribbon to the bodice
- Inserted horsehair hoop into the hem of the tshirt
- Serged a piece of black tulle to some denim and tacked it to the skirt between the red and white layers of tulle
- Put bias tape in the armholes to finish the edges to create a strong under layer for the straps
- Took the red ruffle and tacked it to the bodice to form the dress straps and finished edge for the top of the bodice
- Braided the red ruffle, red tulle, and trims to create a wave across the bodice and skirt
- Tacked on the white flowers on the back at the top of the zipper and at the end of the braid on the front of the dress
- Glued rhinestones to the black tulle layer
Glitches in the Eco-Fashion Process
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. One thing I love about watching Rebecca’s creative process is how she adapts to the needs of the project without missing a beat.
- Sewing machine glitch- her machine doesn’t enjoy sewing bulk. So, she had to start hand sewing the layers of tulle onto her dress. The need to visit a friend with a machine which could handle it led to a scalloped edge on the red tulle and some other goodies like the rhinestones!
- Skirt layers- once the red and white tulle was attached, she new something was missing. Enter some black tulle from her closet, detached from another dress.
- Coming up short- once she serged the black tulle to the denim and tacked it on to the dress, it didn’t quite make it all the way around. So, she improved and made a bustle from some additional white tulle.
- Running out of time- the original design called for denim straps made from the same pair of jeans, but she switched to bias tape spaghetti straps. This provided a fabulous finished edge for the bodice neckline and armholes, but required a lot of tacking for the ruffle.
Recycled Materials for Eco-Fashions
One item Rebecca wanted to incorporated into her dress was dryer sheets. She was experimenting with various flower designs and settled on this one after I suggested it might make a great dryer sheet flower. It does!
She placed several on the dress including on the sash and on the back to cover the top of the zipper. She also wore one in her hair and still does often!
Everything else was a recycled prom gown item or other garments in rescue status. The highlight were the rhinestones she was able to score from an 80s era prom gown project.
The Finished Denim Plus Eco-Fashion
I love the way the dress turned out. My favorite parts are the swooping braid across the front and the flowers. The best parts of the process for me were putting in the darts and adding the details. Before I began, I knew I wanted to incorporate the dryer sheets and the flowers seemed to be the perfect way to use them.
This dress was made using the draping technique, although I typically prefer to draft my own patterns. Drafting patterns is appealing to me because it makes me more familiar with the pieces and I know how they all fit together. Drafting patterns helps me to deconstruct the garment in my mind and shows me why parts of the process have to be done in a certain order. The best reason of all is that working from my own designs and patterns/draping gives me independence – it’s my pattern, my way.
She turned in the dress with the entry form and a document on The Dress with a Story to Tell.
Rebecca was invited to participate in the Denim Plus Fashion Show that accompanied the contest as both a designer and a model. I’ll also share the contest results!