Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Recycled Cemetery Flower dresses
(Above: Two flower dresses made from blossoms recycled from cemetery dumpsters and trash cans. Click on image to enlarge.)
In less than a month the fourth annual Columbia Design Leagues' Runaway Runway fashion show will be held. It's on Thursday, April 29th at the 701 Whaley Street. I've never been to one of the earlier events. I've never actually been to a fashion show....much less a fashion show of recycled garments. Yet, this year I'm entering the competition with a dress created from recycled flowers and leaves from local cemeteries. (NO...I never take flowers from the graves...just the dumpsters and trash cans! YES...They've all been dissected and thoroughly washed. These are the flowers I used in my recent solo show at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios!)
(Above: Leaf Dress. Click on image to enlarge.)
I'm a little intimidated. I've never made up my own pattern and I haven't stitched anything remotely wearable in over two decades. Even when I attempted to "make some clothes", it wasn't a serious pursuit...probably because I wasn't very good at following directions! The event, however, isn't a "serious" competition. There's a video from last year. It looks fun and very well attended. I have a model. I have two dresses. Why two? I asked a nice young lady to model for me. She's at least six foot tall and a size two; she looks like she is a professional model instead of an assistant art gallery manager hoping to get into a good school for an arts administration master's degree. She'd already agreed to help with the judging for the event...but she said she'd wear one of my dresses! Thus....the longer one for her; the shorter one for a dance major about to graduate from the University of South Carolina who will walk the runway for me.
But....I didn't know what I ought to wear to this event. Finally, I decided to be a "leaf" and made the totally green dress. After all, this is supposed to be a fashion show with a conservation conscious. What better garment that a "green" one. I also have a pair of dyed-to-match green shoes recycled from my younger sister Sonya. Sonya must have worn them in a friend's wedding party. They are PERFECT. By the way, Sonya has invited me to teach in Salzburg, Austria...for the Cultural Studies Academy. Check it out HERE!
So....how did I make these dresses? Well, first one must have a bag full of artificial flowers from the cemetery. These were collected over several months....by dumpster diving and searching the insides of all the trash bins....NEVER from a grave site. All the artificial flowers were dissected and the fabric carefully washed and dried. I used them in my recent solo show. They've been stored in clean kitchen trash bags.
(Above: First layer of flowers laid out on the adhesive coated, water soluble stabilizer. Click on i image to enlarge.)
Next, I used Mobuka's adhesive coated, water soluble stabilizer. I cut out two dress shapes and attached flowers to it. Above is a view from one direction; below is a view from the other direction.
Then I stitched a grid. This grid worked to attach the ground layer of flowers to one another...forming a fairly solid piece of floral fabric.
(Above: Stitching a grid over the first layer of flowers. Click on any image to enlarge.)
After stitching the grid, I switched to free motion embroidery....stitching little circles in the center of the assorted flowers directly on top of the grid....covering the entire surface.
(Above: Free motion stitching assorted flowers on top of the grid of flowers. Just a little spiral in the center....clip the thread....go on to the next flower....covering the entire surface. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above and below: The reverse after all the flowers were free motion attached to the garment. Notice the circular shapes. The flowers will protrude on the front. The grid will hold the first layer of flowers together as a "ground" underneath. The "interface" looking "white" material is the adhesive coated, water soluble stabilizer. It dissolves and rinses away when exposed to a lot of water with agitation. Click on images to enlarge.)
I attached flowers all over both sides...then stitched the two sides together at the shoulder. I left both sides open. Then, I dissolved the stabilizer. It took lots and lots of water....more than one rinsing....lots of agitation.....and finally everything was melted away. Thus, the dresses are entirely made of recycled artificial cemetery flowers and thread. Nothing more. Totally washable. Very wearable. Perfect for spring. Photos with the models are coming!
(Above: The reverse of one side of the dress before being dissolved....notice the grid that holds the foundation flowers together and the little free-motion spirals that attach the blossoms. Click on image to enlarge.)
I hope this event goes well. I'm excited!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 5:13 PM