Dad jeans turned into a skirt, and a business suit and old newspapers transformed into ball gowns. With pieces made of 90 percent recycled materials or trash, every outfit was different.
This year’s Trashion Refashion Show, which took place Sunday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, was the primary annual fundraiser for the Center for Sustainable Living. Bloomington designers submitted looks created with long-abandoned garments or found garbage.
This variety is the reason why Jeanne Leimkuhler decided to make the show a noncompetitive event when she originated it seven years ago.
“Everything is so unique that it’s hard to compare them, so I didn’t think there should be a winner,” Leimkuhler said. “Everyone is involved and is appreciative of what they did, and it creates this really collaborative atmosphere. Everyone has a great time. There’s no vying for the best thing.”
Leimkuhler made a mermaid outfit out of scales cut from blue and green three-ring binder covers for this year’s show. She started the show for the Center for Sustainable Living when she was working as their treasurer.
“I was looking for a signature fundraiser for the Center for Sustainable Living, something that would be entertaining as well as educational about environmental issues,” Leimkuhler said.
The show has always been inclusive, Leimkuhler said. Anyone of any age or gender can enter their designs, and a committee goes through a jury process to decide which designs go into the runway show.
“There are people who have been in the show every year since it began,” Leimkuhler said. “What the show does is it pulls people in who don’t necessarily consider themselves artists or designers, but when they see the concept of using recycled materials to make something, they just get inspired by it.”
In 2009, the first year of the show, Leimkuhler brought in designers from IU’s fashion design program and from her own pool of friends. That year there were about 40 designs, with a lot of designers submitting up to three outfits.
On Sunday, there were 74 looks spending less than a minute each on the runway. Half of the designs were refashion, meaning they were restyled old outfits, and half were trashion, meaning the designers went dumpster diving for their materials.
Two of these designers were local artists Danielle Urschel and Jennifer Deam. They found a deflated air mattress, an old boot and shoe, playground underlay and drum heads and turned them into two outfits inspired by Dante’s “Inferno” and 1930s Italian fascism.
“I do more of the nuts and bolts, and Jennifer does the sewing part,” Urschel said. “We get together in the winter. It’s a good project for wintertime when it’s cold out. We meet and do some sketches, get our pile of junk together and try to figure out a design.”
One of their outfits represents the first level of hell, Urschel said, while the other is a dominatrix outfit complete with whip.
One of the hats to go with the costumes has a quote from “Inferno” screen printed onto it: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” A screen printed eye to represent surveillance and a skull tie together the image of the Inferno, Urschel said.
IU freshman Eliza Becker made use of a material easily found on campus — the Indiana Daily Student.
Becker made a ball gown completely out of the Feb. 19 edition, tearing it into strips for the full skirt and pleating it into fans for the bodice. Bits of stories, headlines and pictures can still be seen scattered throughout.
“To me, it was such a beautiful dress,” Becker said. “I felt like this one day, February 19, was such a beautiful day because I could make it into this dress.”
The title of her dress, “Everyday Beauty,” reflects her thoughts that it was just a regular day, but it was beautiful, Becker said. She first made it as a project for her fundamental 3-D art class, but her professor urged her to contact a textiles professor, who encouraged her to enter it in the runway show.
She learned about the show the day of the deadline, but she emailed in her submission the same day and was accepted. It’s a fun way to promote her work while also promoting sustainability in Bloomington, Becker said.
The goal of the show is to make people think more creatively about what they throw away, Leimkuhler said. There are always ways to repurpose materials that would otherwise be categorized as junk.
“All of the stuff that we just discard and don’t even think about goes into a landfill or ends up in the ocean,” Leimkuhler said. “It doesn’t really go away. It always goes somewhere. This is about looking closer at those materials and either finding ways to not use them to start with or finding ways to reuse them.”