CSU design students create ‘Alice in Wonderland’ inspired sustainable fashion

Sarah Ehrlich

The changing season means new collections from fashion designers all over the world. This is no different here in Fort Collins. The CSU Avenir Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of eco-friendly fashion pieces made from recycled materials designed and created by CSU design and merchandising students.

The exhibition is titled “Eco-Fashion: Through the Looking Glass.” These pieces are inspired by Lewis Carroll’s 1871 novel “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.”


Two designs feature inspiration from the Queen of Hearts and Cheshire Cat, characters from the Alice in Wonderland tales. Photo credit: Sarah Ehrlich


“This exhibit highlights student ingenuity and creativity and, as such, is a delight to behold,” said Diane Sparks, design and merchandising professor and exhibit director. “Students in a design foundation course create garment structures using non-traditional and hopefully recycled materials to apply the elements and principles of design.”

The “Alice in Wonderland” theme inspired students to take designs from all the different characters and props in the story, and they did not disappoint. Each unique garment created by students showed their craftiness in turning recycled materials into beautiful clothing.

Students were not allowed to buy any new material for their creations; thinking outside of the box was important in their designs. Garbage bags, duct tape, zip-lock baggies, tissue paper, comic book pages, playing cards and telephone book pages are just a few of the materials students used.

Design and merchandising major Nicole Pink is one of the students who worked the exhibit. Pink is an aspiring designer with a website showcasing her creations. Pink said this project showed the serious side of sustainability, but also the playful and wearable side of it.

The dress featuring metal pop tabs is the work of Celine Wolff, Emma Heidenfelder and Madison Payne. Photo credit: Sarah Ehrlich


“We had to keep recycling and sustainability in mind while picking our materials,” Pink said. “When I design, I always make sure I waste as little fabric as possible so I can reuse it for other projects.”

Mallory Dill, president of the Fashion Group International (FGI) Student Chapter, said the assignment required students to follow the basic elements of design: line, shape and color.

“This year we also gave the students the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme, which made this collection a lot stronger,” Dill said.

Dill and Pink also helped organize the fashion show that featured the designs from the exhibition. Dill said it took a lot of work to create a show that had a more intimate relationship between the audience and the clothes on the models.


“We wanted to make the show fun and interactive for the audience,” Dill said. “The models walked closer to the audience and walked through them, so it was not the typical catwalk and everyone could really see the details of each garment.”

Nicole Pink’s design features a plus-size two piece dress made of bubble wrap, cardboard and playing cards/ Photo credit: Sarah Ehrlich


Sparks said the colors and shapes of the designs are amazing every semester.

“It is exciting to work with students who always seem to be effervescent geysers of creativity,” Sparks said. “It never ceases to amaze me how dynamic and varied the projects are from year to year. Students invest a lot of energy into this project, which is either exhibited in the UCA Avenir Gallery or in the Gustafson Gallery on campus.”

Director of Avenir Museum Doreen Beard said the Avenir Museum has an exciting future ahead.

“In the coming months you can visit not only the students’ Eco-Fashion work, but also exhibitions on bridal apparel, the influence of floral design in 150 years of women’s dresses and the influence of the caftan heritage of Morocco,” Beard said. “There will also be exhibitions of 35+ years of CSU’s Homecoming 5K t-shirts, 19th century woven coverlets and an exhibition of our Design & Merchandising faculty’s stunning creative work in artistic apparel.”

You can read more about these exhibits at dm.chhs.colostate.edu.