Students Make Fashion Statement with Trash Wardrobes

By Kelly Jasper, Daily News-Record

Trash Fashion Show at EMU

EMU students and Cyndi Gusler, a professor at EMU, put on the Winter 2007 Collection of Reclaimed Fashion, otherwise known as the “trash fashion show”.

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Cyndi Gusler’s pants crinkle as she walks. But with pink feathers in her hair and plastic bags around her wrists, who would ever notice?

Her Technicolor getup practically blends into the crowd.

It’s Thursday night and Gusler, a professor at EMU, is backstage at The Winter 2007 Collection of Reclaimed Fashion, otherwise known as her final exam.

She and a dozen students organized the event to show off a semester’s work turning high fashion on its head.

Gusler’s capris, fashioned from the paper packaging of teabags, were one of nearly 50 “recycled” outfits featured in the fashion show.

Haute Couture vs. Trash

It’s either haute couture or trash, depending on how you look at it.

Most of the pieces modeled Thursday were bizarre (plastic bottle headpieces, window-blind dresses, Christmas tree tinsel pants). Yet, some are passable as street attire (a duct-tape top, remarkably, and at least two dresses that have lived former lives as shower curtains).

Sure, it’s weird. But, can’t the same be said for spending the thousands of dollars it costs to own the latest bag, dress, jacket, whatever?

Gusler’s class challenges consumerism head-on.

“This class is about so much more than fashion,” student and designer Mattie Horning said. “People just use and use and use. It’s all about consumption. This class has taught me to look at my closet in a different way.”

Horning, a sophomore, recruited two or three friends to model her designs and wore one herself Thursday night. A pair of “old man’s running shorts” were redesigned into a skirt.

“I just painted over the ugly ’80s pattern,” she said.

Horning twisted an old T-shirt into a top and knitted hand warmers to complete the outfit.

“I can take what I have and make it better,” Horning says.

Megan Good, a senior in the class, made her dress from purple burlap, leftovers from a wall covering.

“I just started with the fabric and saw how it moves, like any designer would,” Good explains.

She finished the creation with matching purple duct tape.

“Duct tape is amazing. You can find it in almost any color,” she explained.

Gusler is thrilled.

“I am so impressed with their innovation. They have so many ideas,” she says after the show. “Our emcee had to literally staple his pants, ones made of garbage bags, onto himself moments before the show.”

Standing Room Only

The audience apparently was impressed, too. The sold-out event drew hundreds to the university. Dozens were turned away from the door.

“It’s amazing that so many people came,” Horning says. “This is all about sustainable style and the choices we all make. Trash can look pretty hot.”