HARRISONBURG, VA. – The latest trend in fashion is usually found inside a magazine – not composed of the magazine itself. But for trash fashion designer Sophia Mast, fashion is found in materials we use everyday.
“I have always loved fashion and creating things,” said 15-year-old Mast, a native of Lancaster, Pa. “I’ve noticed dresses made out of magazines before and I wanted to try making one of my own.”
Mast’s creation, a dress she named, “wa(i)sted time,” won the trash fashion show’s Facebook vote at the 2011 Mennonite Youth Convention, held in Pittsburgh, Pa., July 4-9. Contestants were able to design and build their costumes at home and then model their attire down a runway on the rooftop of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh.
Mast produced the dress from recycled Time magazines she collected from family and her high school library after noticing how the distinct red border on the Time magazine cover could be re-purposed.
“The red band on the Time magazine cover helped give my dress a recurring theme while also giving order to its randomness.”
Mast worked on the dress from the beginning of May until the day she left for convention in July. “The finished dress is very different than my original design,” she said. “The dress continued to evolve as I went along.”
Cyndi Gusler, EMU professor of art, praised Mast for “a beautiful job crafting the materials together” and for her poise modeling her creation on the runway.
EMU and trash fashion
The connection between the Mennonite Youth Convention and trash fashion began with a graduate class Gusler was enrolled in. In the class, students created sculptures based on a model dressed in recycled materials.
“I just imagined, ‘What if we had a whole group of people dressed in costume, and put on a show?'” said Gusler.
The idea took shape when EMU students begin inquiring about an independent study course. Gusler mentioned trash fashion, and as the concept spread, so did the interest from students and staff.
“[Former academic dean] Marie Morris asked me to include the course in normal class offerings,” said Gusler. “I never imagined it would be such a hit,” leading to fashion shows at two successive biannual Mennonite church conventions.
At the 2009 convention, “we had designs that used old filmstrips, grocery bags and aluminum foil to skirts incorporating a deck of cards – it was amazing,” said Gusler.
At the 2011 convention, close to 1,250 people were in attendance – far exceeding the expected seating capacity of 750. “Each time we do the show our crowd has grown,” said Gusler.
For Mast, the design process has already got her thinking about ideas for the next trash fashion show.
“I would do the fashion show again, absolutely,” said Mast, who adds she is already pondering designs for it. “Walking down the runway was so much fun, and I felt support and encouragement from everyone.”
Much of the success of the trash fashion show, says Gusler, comes from its entertaining, professional-quality staging, with such details as lighting, music, and timing worked out by EMU theater faculty members David (technical director) and Heidi Winters Vogel, along with Gusler’s husband, Chad, an assistant professor in EMU’s language and literature department.