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Tempe Center for the Arts Gallery


By Kelly Aaron for Angela Johnson

The idea for giving vintage tees the Cinderella treatment happened quite by accident. I transplanted myself out of my mass-produced clothing line in LA and landed in an Arizona school teaching fashion classes. The “T-shirt Ballgown” was an evolution of a lesson I taught on repurposing and recycling objects into garments. When I found that I had created something that was eco-friendly, unique, comfortable, washable, versatile and fun, the entrepreneur in me immediately decided to act on the idea and start another clothing company. My business of “upcycling” T-shirts into new garments was born.

Using 25 or more shirts to create one finished gown, I see each shirt as a piece of fabric, not as an existing garment. I manipulate a stretchy knit fabric into shapes and structures for which it was never engineered, incorporating highly tailored shaping details such as darts and boning. Sure, I could easily source knits in an endless rainbow of colors from any fabric wholesaler in the country, but the end result would have no meaning, no story and no power. There is beauty in the transformation from utilitarian tee to girlie confection; a resourceful frivolity.

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