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11 Household Items Made Into Prom Dresses

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Industrious ladies have always taken to designing and creating their own prom dresses, but generally that just means sewing a few pieces of fabric together. For the truly crafty and clever, though, the materials for a one-of-a-kind dress can be found around the house.

1. Duct Tape

The most common oddball material for prom dresses and tuxes has to be duct tape. And there’s good reason for the material’s popularity—every year Duck Brand Tapes offers $30,000 worth of scholarships to students who can make the best duct tape prom outfits. The winning couple gets a $5,000 prize per person -not bad for being sticky and sweaty for one night. The contest galleries are worth a look.

2. Newspapers

This year, the Detroit Free Press decided to try their hand at prom dress construction contests, offering a $500 prize to the best dress made out of old newspapers.

3. Skittles Wrappers

You’d think someone who made their entire dress from Skittles would be a serious fan of the candy, but as it turns out, Molly Burt-Westvig just really loves rainbows and thought the packaging would make the perfect fabric for her unconventional prom gown. It only took 101 wrappers to create this fringe-covered dress.

4. Starburst Wrappers

Without a contest to incentivize them, two different students wore dresses made out of Starburst Wrappers. The first was Tara Frey, whose mother spent six years constructing a dress, a purse, shoes and jewelry, and a matching vest for Tara’s date. By the time all was said and done, no one could even estimate how much candy they had to go through to make the dress. It must have been a ton though, considering that Diane McNease required about 18,000 wrappers just to make the corset of her prom dress this year—a feat that took the high school senior five months.

5. Coffee Filters

Sometimes prom dresses are most certainly inspired by things the girls love. For example, Aimee Kick is known around town as “the girl with a coffee cup" as the aspiring fashion designer spends a lot of time at her local coffee shops. Embracing her love of the caffeinated bean, Aimee went ahead and created an entire dress out of coffee filters and accessorized the look with a coffee bean necklace.

6. Gum Wrappers

Elizabeth Rasmuson and boyfriend Jordan Weaver’s friends must have had great breath this year. That’s because the couple bought enough gum to create a corset top and a vest out of the wrappers. But to get to the wrappers, they had to pass out "5" gum to all of their friends first.

7. Doritos Bags

When it comes to crafting prom dresses from unconventional materials, perhaps no one is as famous as Maura Pozek. While I have no idea how she’s managed to go to prom four years in a row, she has certainly come up with impressive looks for every event, starting with the homemade Gothic Lolita dress she wore freshman year. The next year though, she decided to make it more of a challenge, and created this delightful dress from Doritos bags.

8. Soda Tabs

For her junior year, Maura decided to make something a little classier and began investing over 100 hours into this dress made with over 4,000 pull tabs and lots of ribbon. Surprisingly, of all of her gowns, she claims that this was the most comfortable.

9. Cardboard

For her final prom dress, this year Maura really dove into the recycling bin, pulling out cardboard and paper bags. Impressively, she even managed to construct a lovely corset backing with her corrugated top.

10. Bubble Wrap

It’s hard to tell if Reddit user jnizeti was inspired by the duct tape prom dress contest or by a package delivered to her house. Either way, it’s certainly unique.

11. A Parachute

This may be the only dress on this list made out of actual fabric, and it isn't technically something most people would find around the house, but it's certainly not ordinary. The dress, made from a parachute by Crafter user Obudha, can actually be turned into a tent. It’s like the Swiss army knife version of prom dresses.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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