Fresh ideas for recycled fashion

Students team up to produce dresses for Earth Day fashion show

Some juniors at St. Joseph’s Academy have proven that two heads are better than one.

Students in Amy Neck’s sewing classes and Nicole Lane’s art classes collaborated one-on-one to create dresses for this year’s recycled fashion show at Louisiana Earth Day.

“We decided last year to collaborate. That’s big in the education world right now, for curriculums to cross,” Neck said.

Neck explained that the girls in her junior sewing classes were given a piece of plain muslin fabric, and they all made dresses to fit themselves. Then they turned the dresses over to Lane’s students.

“And we matched students and artists together,” Neck said. “The artists painted on the dresses, and then they were turned back to us, and the artist and the student talked about the recycle aspect and applying it to the dress.”

Andree LaVille gave a twirl in a multi-toned blue frock.

“Her father builds cabinets, so she got all the sandpapers that he doesn’t use, got them off the floor, and she took them and cut them out and made them part of her dress, kind of a fish gill kind of thing,” Neck said.

The layered squares of painted sandpaper form a peplum (flared ruffle) on the bodice of the dress, and part of its skirt.

Playing cards, paper towel rolls, peacock feathers, they all pop up on the girls’ 58 creations.

Artist Olivia Locascio said the students used different painting techniques.

“We would water down paint and let our dress soak in the paint, almost like a dye,” she said. “My dress, I would put paint on a brush and take my dress outside and splatter paint. I would water down paint and brush it on my dress and hang it up so the paint would drip down.”

Artist Kate Wall and her dress collaborator decided on chewing gum wrappers for their recycled element.

“We spent a lot of time folding and refolding these gum wrappers, to where they would actually look like they were supposed to be on the dress,” Wall said.

Good friends Hope Mayer, the artist, and Kelli Aultman, the seamstress, also put their heads together to design a dress.

“I picked out the silhouette, and I trust her opinion. I said, ‘I want a nautical theme. I know I want a sunset on it.’ And she said, ‘OK, I’ve got it,’” Aultman said.

“I had a general idea, a sailboat, and started with the water and painted it all around. I made the sailboat off-center so it looked like a scene on her body,” Mayer said. “I ripped up (some gauzy) fabric in pieces and glued it on to look like clouds.”

The girls attached old Mardi Gras beads onto the dress to form the reflection in the blue water and used more beads to make the sun.

Neck said that more than half of the girls will model their dresses in the Trash, Class and All That Sass fashion show at Earth Day, and all receive a grade for their dresses.

“It’s a social experience. It’s a lifetime lesson,” Lane said of the collaborative project. “It’s getting them ready for the real world. It was just a great experience overall. They exceeded my expectations, because it’s the first time we’ve ever done this project. We were learning as they were learning. They really ran with it and I think they did an excellent job.

“They got to be individual, be unique, with the recycled elements as well,” Lane said.

Elsewhere at Earth Day

“Be the Change You Want in the World” is the theme of the 23rd Louisiana Earth Day.

“It brings home that you can be the change agent in your environment,” Brenda Nixon, past president of Earth Day, said. “I think Earth Day helps us think deeply about the kinds of impacts we have because everything we do in our environment affects someone else. It reminds us to be good stewards, of the environment, our resources, and work to have a healthy lifestyle basically.”

Promoting recycling is a part of every Earth Day.

“If we recycle an aluminum can, we save 95 percent of the energy that it takes to make that can from bauxite. That’s huge,” Nixon said.

Currently East Baton Rouge Parish residents are diverting about a third of the parish’s waste from the landfill and into recycling through the parish’s recycling program, she said.

Visitors to Earth Day can learn about curbside and organic recycling, using recycled products in gardening, and even recycling the clothes on their backs.

Other activities include:

  • Getting a close-up look at a baby kangaroo brought by Barnhill Preserve.
  • Checking out the It All Starts at BREC area, with a glimpse of all the programs and facilities of BREC.
  • Seeing the classroom animals cared for by the LaBranche Woodland Watchers, a group of middle school students from St. Charles Parish.
  • Finding out how to live a healthy lifestyle through a balanced diet from staff of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
  • Watching Fern Gulley: The Last Rainforest, at the Old State Capitol, being presented as part of the Louisiana International Film Festival.
  • Strolling through Earth Walk, featuring 20 environmental groups from the governmental and nonprofit sectors.
  • Taking in a performance by belly dancers, the Mother Earth Dancers, sponsored by Heifer International.
  • Letting children ages 2-5 take part in hands-on activities on the Old Governor’s Mansion lawn.
  • Taking older children to the Junior League of Baton Rouge’s Imagination Playground.
  • Hearing live music or watching dance and other performances on four stages.

And that’s just a sampling of what’s planned for Earth Day.

“There’s tons and tons of things for everybody to do, all ages,” Nixon said.