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C.W. Post Student Turns Trash into Trend-setting Fashion

Art education major’s eco-fashion creates wearable clothes & accessories from plastic bags, VHS and cassette tapes


Morgan Lyle,Assistant Director of Public Relations
C.W. Post Campus,
Long Island University

 Del Giudice's new eco-fashions

Brookville, N.Y. – Diane Von Furstenberg is known for the wrap dress. Yves Saint Laurent for putting women in "power suits." Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel for the iconic little black dress.

Joanna Del Giudice's claim to fashion fame? Fully wearable, beautiful garments crocheted out of garbage bags, plastic shopping bags and VHS and cassette tapes.

For her senior honors thesis at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, the 21-year-old art education major from Centereach, N.Y. created wearable art -- ten outfits made entirely out of items that most throw in the trash on a daily basis. Her collection includes a variety of pieces and styles, including a metallic vest made out of two VHS tapes, a black strapless dress and zigzag belt made from a trash bag and VHS tape, a metallic shawl made from four cassette tapes, a yellow and red circle skirt made from 65 “Shop Rite” bags and a stunning red corset made from 40 plastic bags.

"I love to see people's reaction when they see it," she said. "At first glance you can't tell they are made out of plastic."

Her work was acclaimed at “ReImagine: An Eco-Fashion Art Show” at C.W. Post in October, featuring her creations on living models. An appearance at the campus Fashion Show followed, and word began to spread. Today, Del Giudice has begun accepting orders for custom pieces and taught a class in trash-to-fashion at Half Hollow Hills East High School. She met Tim Gunn of the Bravo TV series “Project Runway” at a book signing, and the show's season seven contestant Anthony Williams wore one of her ties at a costume party at Hillwood Art Museum at C.W. Post.

“It's about getting the idea and concept out there for people to see," she said. "It truly isn't just reduce, reuse and recycling. It's reimagining – up-cycling, transforming and giving something old, new life.”

Working without patterns, Del Giudice crochets her creations using “plarn,” a type of yarn created by cutting up and tying together plastic bags. She estimates that each piece takes about 20 hours, depending on its complexity. The more complicated the item, the more bags she uses -- a purple and beige dress was constructed from about 60 Stop & Shop supermarket bags.

Del Giudice’s parents, Joseph and Angela Del Giudice, are math teachers who met while they were students at C.W. Post. Joanna’s sister Christina graduated from C.W. Post in May with a master’s degree in special education, and another sister, Diana, is a sophomore at C.W. Post majoring in art education.

When she was in the fifth grade, her grandmother taught Del Giudice to crochet. As a college sophomore, she took an education class where students were asked to create a lesson plan based on a social justice issue. Her group decided to do a unit plan based on being environmentally aware and each member chose a different medium; Del Giudice decided to crochet a handbag out of plastic bags. The project was a success (her handbag is so durable, she still uses it today), and Del Giudice took the project a step further, basing her senior art show around transforming garbage into functional artwork.

While writing her senior honors thesis, Del Giudice researched her materials, learning that while they have only been around for about 50 years, they can take anywhere between 500 to 1,000 to decompose.

"They are a mass-produced object," she said "and they are filling our landfills and our oceans, not to mention the chemicals that are used to make them. It's not healthy for the environment. We hear a lot about the three Rs," she said "reducing, reusing and recycling. I added a fourth – re-imagine."

Posted 12/22/2010

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