Like a scene from “The Sound of Music,” advertisement banners that had fluttered from poles along Broad Street were pulled down and turned into dresses.
For the second annual fashion experiment by the Art Institute of Philadelphia, the Center City District, and the Shops and Liberty Place, a group of fashion students repurposed old signage in the name of haute couture.
In the rotunda of the Shops at Liberty Place Monday, models strutted along a catwalk while draped in heavy nylon still showing advertisements for the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” The fabric was made to withstand a Philadelphia winter, not to hug the curves of a woman.
“It doesn’t have any give,” said Cassandra Bressler, a fashion design student at the Art Institute. “As you can see it’s very flat on her. The more layers you add, the thicker and harder to get through it. My machine could barely handle it.”
Bressler stole the show with a winged corset and flyaway skirt that showed off her model’s legs like an old-fashioned pinup girl. The designs–including a Pocahontas frill skirt, and a floor-length gown with a train made from old “Wireless Philadelphia” banners–were inspired by the whimsical touches of Roberto Capucci.
The project pushes future designers past the norm–if they can make a nylon banner look flattering, they can make anything look flattering.
“You’re going to go and be an assistant designer, you’re not going to have the most luxurious fabric,” said Art Institute instructor Karen Karuza. “Granted, it might not be banner fabric, but you may be given some very challenging fabric to work with, so there’s a real practical application for this. Believe it or not.”
Students also used the banners to make tote bags for sale through the Center City District. The dresses will become part of the designers’ portfolio. However, Karuza says, last year one of the dresses actually went to a paying customer.