Nothing ‘new’ to wear
But these outfits made from recycled or reused materials bring Brooke students honors in state ReFashion Show
WELLSBURG — Bags of Ramen Noodles, Mountain Dew cans and boxes, ribbon from VCR tapes, grocery bags and good old newspapers don’t sound like conventional material to make a teenager’s outfit, but several Brooke County Schools students proved otherwise and were honored on the state level for their creativity.
The vehicle for that was the Recycling Coalition of West Virginia’s 18th-annual ReFashion Show, normally an in-person runway event held at the Charleston Town Center Mall in downtown Charleston, W.Va. This year’s event, however, was replaced with a virtual online version in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even so, the local students joined others from across the state in the competition that challenges designers/models to create outfits made from recyclable or reused materials, such as newspaper, aluminum cans and cardboard.
The ReFashion Show includes four challenge categories with participants in two age groups –13 and under and 14 and over, based on the age of the outfit designer, not the model. Cash prizes of $150, $100 and $50 are awarded to age group winners, and category winners receive a mall gift card. Ultimately 23 participants in West Virginia used their imagination to create outfits from high fashion to cosplay and science fiction themes. The competition is open to anyone in the state, not just students.
Brooke High School art teacher Sara Roark learned who won during the week feeding into Christmas, news that made her especially happy.
“This is my 15th year teaching at Brooke High School,” Roark noted. “We’ve entered the W.Va. ReFashion Show every year since 2007 — my second year teaching — but what’s even more exciting is that we’ve placed something in the show every year that we’ve entered. This year, however, set a new record for us in having three students place in the show. We’ve had two in one year several times in the past, but never three,” Roark explained.
“And Brooke Middle School participated for the first time and had a winner, too, so all of that is very exciting for Brooke County Arts,” she added, noting Brooke Middle School art teacher Lindsey Zeigler encouraged her students to get involved in the 2020 event.
Brooke schools had seven students create outfits with five actually entering.
Roark announced the local winners and explained their inspiration.
¯Veronica Mann, a Brooke High School junior, Ramen Noodle dress, first overall, 14 and over category.
“Veronica thought to do her dress based off her hair — yes, you heard right, her hair,” Roark began. “She said her hair reminds her of Ramen noodles when falling out of a bowl. She also enjoys eating them — her favorite flavor is chicken — and while she does not know how many packages she used for sure, she knows it was well over 100. No worries, she did not eat that many herself, rather collected wrappers from other Ramen-loving friends, family and classmates,” Roark assured.
¯ Lani Cole, Brooke High School junior, Mountain Dew packaging, second overall, 14 and over category.
“When it was assigned, Lani went into the kitchen and looked around to see what there might be a lot of,” Roark explained. “Both of her parents drink a lot of Mountain Dew, so she knew she wouldn’t have trouble getting that to use for her project. Her family and parents’ Facebook friends instantly started collecting. She then she went to the craft store to pick out the perfect pattern. During the next couple weeks, she saved all the supplies and stuck them in a corner which her mom said looked like a garbage room,” Roark continued. “She used approximately nine 12-pack cardboard boxes, 49 cans, 35 grocery bags, 52 labels off bottles and pop tabs. At first, she wasn’t too sure of herself and kept saying, ‘how do people do this for a living?’ but during the process and with her twin sister’s help, it started coming together. She tweaked it numerous times to get the perfect fit. She commented on how loud the dress was as she clanked around her house trying it on, but in the end, when she was posing for the contest photo shoot, she said, ‘So, this is what it feels like to be a super model in trash,'” Roark said.
¯ Madison Roble, Maleficent (Best of Cosplay Category) 2014 movie
A Brooke High School senior, Roble knew she wanted to try to create the Maleficent costume even before she figured out what materials she was going to use. “I just thought it was a really cool character and thought it would be really fun to make,” she told her teacher. With the dress being predominately black, she scrambled to figure out what recycled materials she had available to create that, finally settling on the inside ribbon from VCR tapes, and broke open and unraveled at least 10 old, discarded movies to have enough to make the dress and accessories.
¯ Anneliese Schupbach, a seventh-grader at Brooke Middle School, also won Best of the Newspaper Category. According to her teacher, she was inspired by her grandparents, who are avid newspaper collectors.
Entries had to be submitted through e-mail by Nov. 30 andl consist of two videos, not to exceed 30 seconds each. The first video was to include the designer, on camera, stating their name and age group and describing their design inspiration and the materials used in the garment. The second video was to highlight the garment with a runway walk making use of the model’s environment, home, yard, etc. Designers also were encouraged to submit photos of their design, especially shots highlighting detailed aspects of the garment and any fashion accessories that were part of the design, including shoes and purses, for example.
“I love this competition, because it encourages both out-of-the-box — or maybe using the box — thinking and spurs consideration and conversation on various economic, social, environmental issues in a fun way,” Roark said. “We are such a throw-away society and that certainly has consequences. This fashion show puts on display not only dresses, but maybe, more importantly, the idea that there are alternatives out there if we only put a little time and creativity into finding the solutions,” she added.
Roark was glad the event could still be held, given the pandemic has interrupted a schedule of normalcy.
“The past year has brought a lot of uncertainty, change and loss, and I was crossing my fingers that in a time where so many things were getting canceled, that this event would still go on. And it did,” she said.
“While it didn’t look quite like past years for us — there was no trip to Charleston, no walking the runway in the middle of the mall with a cheering crowd and no live awards, I think it still had the same excitement leading up to it with the students frantically brainstorming and working to turn trash into stunning pieces of wearable art,” she noted. “I’ve encouraged my students to enter every year and have been extremely proud of their efforts and results, but I’m even more impressed by this year’s students as they had to work hard from home most of the time. We started the ReFashion pieces while we were still face-to-face in school, but soon after went remote, forcing students to be extra creative and self-motivated to get their pieces done in time. They certainly rose to the challenge. These outfits were so impressive,” Roark commented.
“Last year we entered a Snow White dress out of Dollar General bags and magazines; a flashy bird costume from CDs and VCR tapes; and an inventive take on the Mad Hatter, largely made of teabags and old books,” Roark said.
While there is a slideshow of participants on the www.wvrecycles.com site, a video and official statewide announcement of winners was set to post mid-January.
The Recycling Coalition of West Virginia that organizes the show is a nonprofit environmental organization whose mission is to promote the effective and sustainable reduction, reuse and recycling of materials otherwise destined for disposal. It pursues these goals by promoting the purchase of products made with recycled materials; by coordinating and facilitating activities relative to recycling; and by fostering communication among organizations, government agencies and individuals through the sharing of ideas and resources, according to its website.
(Kiaski can be contacted at email@example.com.)