Recycling in fashion at MSU

By LaReeca Rucker/The Clarion-Ledger

JACKSON — Going green and recycling isn’t just an environmental trend; it’s a fashion statement.

That’s why a Mississippi State University class recently held a fashion competition for 45 visual design students, requiring them to create clothing and accessories using recycled materials and everyday items.

Students used football tickets, bike chains, coffee cup holders and filters, restaurant receipts, newspapers and other items as their materials.

Phyllis Bell Miller, a MSU professor who specializes in the history of apparel, textiles and merchandising, said the competitors kept color, light and texture in mind.

“The project was to allow them to use any materials — either pieces of other clothing they were recycling or items that weren’t really related to clothing,” she said. “The goal was to make something and use design elements and principles to make it better.

“My goal is to take the guesswork out of designing. If you pair creativity with knowledge, you can come up with any combination.”

One student used football passes to create a flapper dress. Another made shoes from Coca-Cola cans.

One made a purse using Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup containers, and another paired leather from an old automobile seat with lace curtains to create a hair ornament.

Megan Bedells, an apparel, textiles and merchandising major, won with a coffee-themed dress.

“I get coffee pretty much every day before class, and I probably had a coffee cup sitting in front of me when she handed out the project sheet,” said Bedells, 18. “When she announced the competition was going to be recycled materials, I kind of had an idea in mind to use the sleeve that goes around the cup whenever you have a hot drink at Starbucks.”

Bedells used the cup sleeves to create a corset bodice. She cut snowflake shapes from coffee filters and used them to create a skirt.

“A belt and a bow in the back is made out of old T-shirts,” she said. “I also used the cups from Starbucks that have decorations on them and some little sayings from the cup.”

Bedells said, “You can use anything to make anything that you want, and you can always take something broken and make it into a new thing. You can design stuff with things you already have instead of always having to go out and buy something.”

Kasey Fulgham created a one-shoulder dress with a pleated skirt and flower details using newspapers. She captured second place.

“I immediately thought of the basics like newspapers and black garbage bags,” she said. “I chose to do a one-shoulder dress because it’s a very popular style right now that every girl owns. I just added pleats in the skirt and handmade flowers at the top to make it stylish and feminine.”

Mary Clair Cardin, an interior design major, received an honorable mention for her bike chain jewelry.

“I worked at Turquoise during high school,” she said. “It’s a jewelry store in Highland Village. A lot of people were attracted to old and rustic looking jewelry, and chains are really in right now, so I just combined the two and thought bike chains would create the perfect rustic look.

“I did a gold set, a blue set, a necklace and a bracelet for each one. I got recycled bike chains and used spray paint and other recycled materials to make something look new.”

Bell said most participants were incoming freshmen.

“When they start their first class doing something like this, by the time they are seniors, they are doing wonderful things,” she said. “The main idea was, regardless of how much money you have or don’t have, you can create something wonderful. It doesn’t depend on your purse. It depends on what’s inside your head — your imagination.”

Bell said another goal was to emphasize that you can find clothing in thrift stores.

“A lot of people are doing that today, and there is really no shame in it,” she said. “It used to carry a stigma, but now repurposing garments and other items is the thing to do.”

Bell said the competition also ties into a Starkville Salvation Army thrift store project.

“The idea is to transform it into something that looks more like a vintage boutique, giving it more of a chic appearance,” she said.

Miller said the competition is held annually, but the objective always changes.

Last year, students designed hats. In the past, they have designed medical scrubs, flip-flops, handbags and denim.