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James Buchanan High student creates recyclable prom dress

April 17, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- Shelby Yorks has found that plastics really do make it possible.

Staples help, though, when making a recyclable prom dress, at least to ensure the garment stays in place on that important night.

"I'm taking a stapler just in case the top falls apart," Shelby said.

The dress, still a work in progress after four months, will be debuted when the 16-year-old junior at James Buchanan High School joins classmates at prom on Saturday, May 3. Afterward, sometime over the summer, the dress will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Danville, Pa., for its recycling program.

Materials used by the aspiring fashion designer include milk jugs, the colored coating on wire, clear plastic sheeting, an old tablecloth, bottle caps, tulle and black cotton.


"I had to staple it because the sewing machine would not sew through it," Shelby said.

It was that sewing machine and its constant hum that gave Shelby comfort when her mother died a few years ago. Since then, Shelby moved several times and ended up in Mercersburg this school year.

A former Philadelphia resident, Shelby encountered some strange looks from area residents here when they saw her short, often colored hair, bright clothing and dramatic makeup. However, buzz about the recyclable prom dress has generated good feedback from fellow students, teachers and customers at Milky Way Restaurant where she works.

"I told like the whole school, 'Bring me milk jugs, bring me milk jugs.' I had times when my whole basement filled with jugs," Shelby said.

Circles cut from the sides of those jugs form the bottom portion of the dress, which falls to mid-calf when worn. Shelby's necklace, shoes and corsage also have been formed from recyclables.

"I'm just going (to prom) with a group of friends, and if there's a guy there that wants to dance, I'll dance," Shelby said, adding that dancing could be difficult when dressed in plastic.

Help with the dress's design and construction came from several people, including teachers, Shelby's father, her grandmother, and Liz Barger, a friend and JBHS graduate.

"I want people to come see it in real life. ... A lot of people are just kind of like 'how?'" said Shelby, a vegetarian who noted that she loves the environment and animals.

Shelby designed a dress last year and adapted it for the fall Homecoming dance.

On Monday, she cupped a few dozen colorful beads in her hands to show the basic material for her next project:

"I already have an idea for next year, and I'm going to start working right after the prom. I've already started drawing some things," Shelby said.

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