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11 Household Items Made Into Prom Dresses

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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© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Animals
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hires Puppy to Sniff Out Art-Munching Bugs
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dogs are qualified to work at hospitals, fire departments, and airports, but one place you don’t normally see a pooch is in the halls of a fine art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is changing that: As The Boston Globe reports, a young Weimaraner named Riley is the institution’s newest volunteer.

Even without a background in art restoration, Riley will be essential in maintaining the quality of the museum's masterpieces. His job is to sniff out the wood- and canvas-munching pests lurking in the museum’s collection. During the next few months, Riley will be trained to identify the scents of bugs that pose the biggest threat to the museum’s paintings and other artifacts. (Moths, termites, and beetles are some of the worst offenders.)

Some infestations can be spotted with the naked eye, but when that's impossible, the museum staff will rely on Riley to draw attention to the problem after inspecting an object. From there, staff members can examine the piece more closely and pinpoint the source before it spreads.

Riley is just one additional resource for the MFA’s existing pest control program. As far as the museum knows, it's rare for institutions facing similar problems to hire canine help. If the experiment is successful, bug-sniffing dogs may become a common sight in art museums around the world.

[h/t The Boston Globe]

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Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.
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History
Mütter Museum Showcases the Victorian Custom of Making Crafts From Human Hair
Palette work from the collection of John Whitenight and Frederick LaValley
Palette work from the collection of John Whitenight and Frederick LaValley
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

During the Victorian era, hair wasn’t simply for heads. People wove clipped locks into elaborate accessories, encased them in frames and lockets, and used them to make wreaths, paintings, and other items. "Woven Strands," a new exhibition at Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, explores this historical practice by featuring dozens of intricate works culled from five private collections.

According to Emily Snedden Yates, special projects manager at the Mütter Museum, hair work—as it’s called today—was common in England and America between the 17th and early 20th centuries. The popularity of the practice peaked in the 19th century, thanks in part to Queen Victoria’s prolonged public mourning after her husband Prince Albert’s death in 1861. People in both the UK and U.S. responded to her grief, with the latter country also facing staggering death tolls from the Civil War.

With loss of life at the forefront of public consciousness, elaborate mourning customs developed in both nations, and hair work became part of the culture of bereavement. "[The 19th century was] such a sentimental age, and hair is about sentiment," exhibition co-curator Evan Michelson tells Mental Floss. That sentimental quality made hair work fit for both mourning practices as well as for romantic or familiar displays of fondness.

Palette work culled from the collection of Evan Michelson and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Palette work from the collection of Evan Michelson
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Most hair artworks were made by women, and created solely for the domestic sphere or as wearable trinkets. Women relied on multiple techniques to create these objects, fashioning wreaths with hair-wrapped bendable wires—a process called gimp work—and dissolving ground hair into pigments used to paint images of weeping willows, urns, and grave sites. Watch fobs, necklaces, and bracelets were woven using an approach called table work, which involved anchoring hair filaments with lead weights onto a table and using tools to twist them into intricate patterns through a hole in the furniture’s surface. Yet another technique, palette work, involved stenciled sheets of hair that were cut into various shapes and patterns.

Hair work remained popular until World War I, according to Michelson, who co-owns New York City's quirky Obscura Antiques and Oddities shop and organized "Woven Strands" along with 19th century decorative arts expert John Whitenight.

“Women hit the workforce, and death occurred on such a huge scale that it really swept away the old way of mourning and the old way of doing things,” Michelson says. By the early 20th century, tastes and aesthetics had also changed, with hair work beginning to be viewed “as something grandma had,” she explains.

The Mütter’s exhibition aside, people typically won’t see hair work in major museums. Being a craft primarily performed by women at home, hair works were usually passed down in families and often viewed as worthless from a financial and artistic perspective.

“A lot of hair work was discarded,” Michelson says. Many owners repurposed the shadowbox frames often used to display hair work by removing and tossing the artworks within. Works stored in basements and attics also frequently succumbed to water damage and insects. Antique dealers today typically only see hair jewelry, which often featured semi-precious materials or was encased in a protective layer.

Sepia dissolved hair culled from the collection of Jennifer Berman and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Sepia dissolved hair from the collection of Jennifer Berman
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Yet examples of hair wreaths, palette work, and other delicate heirlooms do occasionally surface. They’re prized by a small group of avid collectors, even though other connoisseurs can be grossed out by them.

“People have this visceral reaction to it,” Michelson says. “They either gasp and adore it—like ‘I can’t get over how amazing it is’—or they just back away. There are very few other things where people are repulsed like this … In the 19th century no one batted an eyelash.”

“It’s a personal textile,” Snedden Yates explains. “It’s kind of like bone in that it doesn’t really decompose at the same rate as the rest of our bodies do. It’s not made of tissue, so if you keep it in the right environment it can be maintained indefinitely.”

Table work culled from the collection of Eden Daniels and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Table work from the collection of Eden Daniels
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

“Woven Strands” features examples of gimp work, palette work, table work, and dissolved hair work. It’s often hard to trace these types of artworks back to their original creators—they typically don’t bear signatures—but the curators “really wanted to find hair that you could connect to an actual human being,” Michelson says. “We chose pieces that have provenance. We know where they came from or when it was made, or who actually donated the hair in some cases, or what the family name was. We also picked out things that are unusual, that you don’t see often—oddities, if you will.”

Woven hair culled from the collection of Jennifer Berman and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Woven hair from the collection of Jennifer Berman
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Displayed in the Mütter Museum’s Thomson Gallery, “Woven Strands” opens on January 19, 2018, and runs through July 12, 2018. On April 7, 2018, master jeweler and art historian Karen Bachmann will lead a 19th century hair art workshop, followed by a day-long historical symposium on the art on Sunday, April 8.

Michelson hopes that “Woven Strands” will teach future generations about hair art, and open their minds to a craft they might have otherwise dismissed as parochial or, well, weird. “We hope that people see it and fall in love with it,” she says.

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