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I'm Heather McGarrigle and this is my blog - a colourful celebration of culture, crafting and creativity in Northern Ireland and beyond.

'Trash' Fashion is for keeps!

'Trash' Fashion is for keeps!


If, like me, you have even a passing interest in clothes alteration, upcycling, green living and repurposing, you'll be familiar with 'trash fashion'. It's a term used by a number of projects and groups across the world to describe the practice of taking used materials, old clothes, scrap, even actual rubbish, and turning them into outfits instead of landfill.

In Northern Ireland, Trash Fashion is an arts project managed by Heather Douglas of the Community Arts Partnership, which challenges a number of community groups to come together and turn old clothes and materials into wearable creations.

It's not only promoting creativity and crafting (two of the Quill's favourite things!), but encourages participants to become eco-aware, learning about recycling, as well as finding out more about the history of clothes production in Northern Ireland.

Workshops have been held over the past few months, and on Saturday 21 February, the groups all took to the catwalk in Belfast City Hall to show off their 'trashy' togs!

Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon was there to welcome everyone to the show, and sounded genuinely interested in the concept of upcycling clothes - maybe we'll see her sporting a few handmade creations at official engagements in the future, who knows? I was lucky enough to be placed at the Mayor's table for the show, and couldn't resist an excited (and vaguely creepy) tweet.


The Causeway Crew provided live music for the opening and closing of the show, and treated us to an impressive variety of hits, from Sam Smith's 'Stay With Me' and 'Titanium' by David Guetta, to a personal favourite of mine, 'Teenage Kicks' from our very own Undertones.

This talented band are made up of members of the BCRC Rock School, a music group for young people with disabilities, and peer buddies. The energetic air guitar performances from our singers were just as entertaining as the fashion show itself!


The crafty couturiers then hit the catwalk in an explosion of colour, glitter, flowers, tulle and tie-dye! From 'Frozen'-inspired princess dresses, to dapper suits, inventive costumes and and even wigwam tents, the creativity on show surpassed even my high expectations.

Once the show was over, the Lord Mayor presented each of the groups with a well-deserved certificate of achievement, and then all-female samba group Chidambaram (who had taken part in the show) made another appearance to get the city hall jumping to their infectious drum beats!

It was wonderfully surreal to see a crowd of people of all ages, jumping around in the formal surroundings of City Hall in brightly-coloured handmade outfits. What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon!


Well done to all the groups that made this show happen, who were:


CAP's Top Five Tips for Trash Fashion:

1. Take old buttons off jackets or cardigans and replace with new, colourful ones, or add ribbons and trims. Cut off and save old buttons - you can use them to make corsages or decorate bags, shoes and other garments.

2. Rework old jeans into bags, skirts or shorts. Save every bit - pockets, waistbands, buttons - they can come in handy for upcycling other clothes!

3. Buy or make fabric flowers and pin or sew them to jackets, coats and dresses.

4. Get colourful! If you can't sew, why not use fabric paint, pens and dyes to update old clothes?

5. Go vintage - there are great bargains to be had in our local charity and second hand shops.

If the pics and tips have inspired you to get crafty and creative with your clothes, check out these links for more info and ideas:

Junk Kouture - recycled fashion design competition for second-level students in the UK.

Haute Trash - a trash fashion designer collective.

Freecycle - a non-profit allowing people to give and get anything - for free!

The Ethical Fashion Forum - an industry body campaigning for sustainability in fashion production.

Civilian Style's DIY fashion blog - great ideas to do it yourself!

Salvage NI - art group offering upcycling workshops in Northern Ireland, including shoe upcycling.

Don't forget to send your pictures to The Patchwork Quill with any of your own upcycled creations - I'd love to see how you are getting crafty with fashion! I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram - or good old-fashioned email!

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