Recycled Fashion Show 2010

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As one of our projects for Earth Day, we experimented with fusing HDPE and LDPE plastic grocery bags into sewable fabric. Shortly after our first success at creating the fabric, we heard about the EPA Earthfest Recycled Fashion Show. This is a runway type fashion show with a judging panel of fashion industry people including Shirin Askari, a former contestant on Project Runway. Combining the technical challenges of fusing plastic with the artist challenges of designing clothes sounded like a lot of fun, so we put together a team.

We Won! - For those who don't want to read the whole page, the short version is: Dallas Makerspace, ALi Em, and our models won 1st place in the non-school category of the 2010 EPA Earthfest Recycled Fashion Show.

Go straight to the photos: Dallas Makerspace entry in EPA Earthfest Recycled Fashion Show

Design Team


  • Create two or more wearable outfits using fused HDPE or LDPE plastic and other recycled materials
  • Have models demonstrate outfits at April 17/18 events
  • Participate in (and win!) the EPA Earthfest Recycled Fashion Show on April 22
  • Do photo shoot to document designs and provide portfolio pics for everyone

Important Dates

  • 17 April (Sat) 11am - 5pm: Demo outfits at DPRG National Robotics Week event at The Generator in Garland to promote Dallas Makerspace and the Oak Cliff Earth Day event the following day.
  • 18 April (Sun) 12pm - 5pm: Demo outfits at Oak Cliff Earth Day event at Lake Cliff Park. We'll be showing off a lot of technology recycling projects at this event.
  • 19 April (Mon) Must submit garment descriptions to judges by today!
  • 22 April (Thu) 8am - 12pm: Win the EPA Earthfest Recycled Fashion Show! Aveda professionals will be providing free hair and makeup services starting at 8am. Pre-judging begins at 9am, the judges will preview the models and talk to design teams. Fashion show begins at 10am.

Time line for 22 April Fashion Show

  • 7:30 am Arrive downtown Dallas for parking and unloading. There are several parking lots and garages at the corner of Ervay and Jackson that can be used. Parking costs average about $5. Meet Steve at AT&T Plaza, 311 S. Akard at Commerce St. google map
  • 7:45 am Check at AT&T Command Center Booth near AT&T stage. All participants and models must get a wrist band. There will be a closed tent for changing.
  • 8:00 am Free hair and makeup services in the Aveda Institute Hospitality Tent
  • 9:00 am Pre-judging by Fashion Industry Gallery and Shirin Askari
  • 10:00 am Fashion Show
  • 11:00 am - 1:00 pm Walk around Earthfest and show designs; walk across the Earthfest Main Stage at Pegasus Plaza, 1500 Main Street, Dallas, TX google map

Judging Criteria and Rules

At present the following four judging criteria seem to be the only official rules in this event. I asked for a specific definition of "recycled" and they said "re-used or re-purposed" - I take that literally to mean both re-purposed materials and re-used items are acceptable. That also implies up-cycled items should be ok too.

  • innovation
  • execution
  • quantity of recycled material vs new material
  • wearability

Judges will select four winners:

  • Most Innovative / creative
  • Most Wearable / Top form and function
  • Overall Design and wearability
  • Honorable Mention

Underlying Material Technology

In terms of hours, the single most time consuming task of the project was fusing plastic bags into fabric. Group members spent a couple weeks experimenting with plastic fusing techniques to develop a sufficiently strong and reproducible material that could be used for clothing. By fusing 5 layers of HDPE or LDPE plastic bags into a single piece, we produce small rectangular sections of fabric. For more information on the process, we created a short video tutorial showing how you can try it yourself. See our recycled plastic fabric project page.

A variety of sample fabric sections were created from opaque, transparent, and translucent plastic. These were passed to our designers as a starting point for ideation. Once design ideas were produced, we focused on creating larger amounts of the selected material types.

Makerspace members collected a large quantity of bags to be recycled into fabric. These were sorted into like types and colors. The largest amount of bags were red and white Target shopping bags made from LDPE. These were sectioned into two parts, the rear of the bag which is completely white and the front which includes a red circle pattern. Over 100 target bags were sectioned and fused to produce a sufficient amount of white fabric for outfit number 2, which is composed almost entirely of plastic.

A smaller number of brown HDPE grocery bags were fused to create fabric panels used in outfit number 1, where they were combined with other repurposed materials.

In addition to creating the fused plastic fabric, we learned during the dress making and fitting cycle how to do repairs and patches as well.

From first Design Drafts to Finished Garments

ALi produced some quick sketches of her initial ideas. These sketches were used as the basis for our first design meeting, where we compared materials and refined the ideas. After the ideas were approved, ALi and Wendy did the work of turning the plastic fabric into actual garments. Makerspace members supplied plastic fabric, other re-used/re-purposed materials, recycled accessories, tools, and coordinated fittings with models.

First three design sketches from ALi

Outfit #1: Corset and Tutu Set modeled by Sarah Ann Chartrand and Wendy Messner

This poofy tutu-type skirt is made from several different layers of recycled material (from bottom to top): discarded bubble wrap packing material, fused HDPE plastic grocery bags (dyed red), red feather weight nylon remnants, bubble wrap (dyed red), tan polyester remnant, tan fused HDPE plastic grocery bags, and repurposed scarves. The top is a corset vest made from a recycled brocade fabric. It has princess seams, laces-up in the center front at the waist through clothespin clasps with repurposed polyester scarf. The collar is made from recycled brown paper grocery bags which were layered and shaped. Ear rings are made from recycled electronic waste including red and black RJ-45 connector shields. Shoes are the model's own. This ensemble is great for a prom or similar formal event or party.

Lots more photos: Dallas Makerspace entry in EPA Earthfest Recycled Fashion Show

Outfit #2: Fitted Silhouette Wedding Dress modeled by Zamra Dollskin

The ruched halter bodice of this dress is made from white opaque plastic panels, created by fusing HDPE and LDEP plastic grocery bags. The waistband is pleated using same white panels and laces up the side with braided plastic drop cloth through repurposed washers. The draped skirt is mid-thigh length, made by connecting the panels in a patchwork pattern. The train is made from repurposed 1 mil LDPE plastic drop cloth, gathered around at the asymmetric hem. The train and half of the bodice are covered with flowers; each flower has up to six layers of recycled materials including mylar balloons, crumpled paper, produce bags, and HDPE grocery bags. All the flowers are hand sewn together, and then onto the dress. The veil is made with different types of clear LDPE plastic sheeting, including recycled dry cleaner bag. Skirt and bodice are separate, easier to take on and off. The ear rings are made from recycled electronic waste including computer hard drive read access heads and platter retention rings. Shoes are the model's own. This ensemble is made especially for an eco-friendly wedding!

Lots more photos: Dallas Makerspace entry in EPA Earthfest Recycled Fashion Show

Photo Gallery

A photo gallery of our progress on this project can be found on flickr:

Photo Gallery: Dallas Makerspace entry in EPA Earthfest Recycled Fashion Show


Other Recycled Fashion Shows

Clothing designs made from raw or fused LDPE/HDPE plastics

Shirin Askari

Idea for Next Year?