UWGB gets thrifty with style for Recyclemania

UW-Green Bay students and faculty popped some tags for Recyclemania with the Upcycling Showcase March 5.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 97 percent of post-consumer textiles are recyclable.

In recognition of this, the Office of Student Life encouraged the UWGB community to take a used piece of clothing and turn it into a new outfit, a growing trend known as upcycling. Inspiration also came from newdressaday.com, a blog from a woman who made a goal of creating 365 new outfits from used clothing with a budget of $365.

To help students and faculty get started, Student Life provided items from Goodwill. Participants could pick something for free, snap a before photo and then get creating.

The outfits were showcased at a fashion show in Phoenix Room B with a runway, lights and music. A panel of three judges was present to award the three best outfits. Winners received $30, $20 and $10 gift certificates to Goodwill.

Melissa Kiela, one of the judges for the event and president of the Public and Environmental Affairs Council, said she and the other judges critiqued the outfits on creativity, design and wearability.

“A lot of creativity and skill was exhibited during the showcase,” Kiela said. “I was impressed with the effort some competitors took to reuse every single item from the original clothing and make a completely different outfit.”

Second-place winner Karli Peterson, sophomore English and communication major, said she wanted to go for a country and Western style with her outfit and transformed a large plaid shirt into a racer-back dress with a matching headband.

First place went to Mai J. Lo Lee, multicultural adviser at the American Intercultural Center. Using a black and white jacket, Lee created a party dress. Seenia Thao, junior social work major, modeled the outfit at the showcase.

“I was inspired by Lady Gaga,” Lee said. “Plus, I wanted to create an outfit that a real college student would wear out dancing.”

Lee used the jacket and its lining for the dress and turned the buttons into a matching necklace.

Peterson and Lee both said upcycling is something almost anyone could do.

“I honestly believe anyone can make a skirt and a corset,” Lee said. “You just need to learn how to pin fabrics together and sew in a straight line. Patience is a key to designing and sewing.”

Peterson said great sewing skills aren’t required and suggested using fabric tape as well. Making a new outfit doesn’t have to be complicated.

“Just pick up a $2 T-shirt and make it your own,” Peterson said.

Lee, who grew up in a large family and often received hand-me-downs, not only enjoyed the creative aspect of the event but also agreed with its environmental message of reusing items.

“Sustainability has always been a lifestyle for me and has really taught me to buy quality items,” Lee said. “I find myself always asking, ‘What else can I do with this item?’ before I donate, recycle or throw out items.”

Kiela hopes the event encouraged people to think more carefully about repurposing items before sending them to the landfill.

“Almost anything can be upcycled, which will diminish our overall waste,” Kiela said. “Our main focus for the Upcycling Showcase was the idea to reuse — something that should come to mind before you throw anything out.”

For upcycling tips and inspiration, check out newdressaday.com and head to the nearest thrift shop to pop some tags.