Trashy Fashions. It’s a cute little quip for a great idea: Repurpose what we throw out as something we wear. Around the country, school kids have been bringing in their garbage and making a wardrobe instead.
For the last four years here in Connecticut, the Trashy Fashions group in Fairfield was born from two local teachers who saw the educational value in getting their students involved in an environmental cause.
“It’s not really about the recycled material,” said Nancy Malafatopoulos, who teaches at Fairfield Warde High School. “It’s about the construction. These kids use braiding and pleating of these materials. I’ve seen some of the kids take newspaper and crunch it up over and over again to make it more like a fabric.”
The kids bring in anything from Capri Sun juice packets to empty yogurt cups to just plain newspaper. “We let the kids use their imagination,” said Mei-Ling Uliasz, a second grade teacher from Burr Elementary School who has been working closely with Malafatopoulos. “They use what they have at home.”
Matafatpoulos, with her consumer science class, and Uliasz, with her Roots & Shoots after school program, have been working together on this project since they came up with the idea simultaneously a few years ago. Rather than compete, they combined their efforts. Working with kids in different age groups has created an interesting learning experience.
“It’s cute having the elementary school kids,” said Malafatopoulos. “It’s exciting to see the bonds between the kids.”
Uliasz said her students have the opportunity to learn from the older kids. “Her girls know how to sew,” said Uliasz of Malafatopoulos’s class. “They weave things like rice sacks. They throw a lot of craftsmanship into it.”
Malafatopoulos’s students have won national fashion awards in previous years for their work. “Only the top in their category in every state gets to go to the national competition,” she said. “Ours have always won ribbons.” In fact, Malafatopoulos won the 2010 National Family Consumer Science Teacher of the Year in March from the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).
But the Fairfield students are not the only ones who have plunged into the depths of the trash barrel to find the makings of a strapless dress. In December 2008, students from Stonington High School put on their own “trashy” fashion show with designs made from repurposed material, as featured in a previous article on this site. And for the fifth year in a row, the students from the Environmental Club at Lauralton Hall in Milford had their annual fashion show in honor of Earth Day featuring a long list of recycled materials. Among other things, they created shoes made from rubber tires and even bracelets constructed from discarded Starburst candy wrappers.
“The girls really outdid themselves this year,” said Donna DiMassa, the Environmental Club moderator, as quoted on the Lauralton Hall web site. “This show has been the most innovative so far. I think we’re ready to model in New York City!”
Using old items and making them new is now a mainstream commodity. From handbags to T-shirts to underwear, there are wearable accessories anywhere you look that are made from recycled materials. Something that helps the planet has become, frankly, commonplace. Not such a bad thing.
Image courtesy of Flickr.