Watch What Happens When Teens Tear Up Wedding Dresses for Fashion

Lyn Pentecost, Executive Director of The Lower Eastside Girls Club, came across what some fashion lovers might consider the ultimate Craigslist find: 50 never-worn vintage wedding gowns, each with its original price tag. Looking to purchase one or two last fall, Ms. Pentecost contacted the seller (a lawyer representing the estate of a wealthy woman) who told her it was an all-or-nothing deal— 50 dresses for $2,500. She declined at first, only to hear back from the lawyer a few months later with an offer of $500 for the entire lot.

Within weeks, two boxes arrived on her doorstep stuffed with mint-condition gowns—garments that a group of teenage girls have since ripped, cut, and spray painted, putting an individual, modern twist on fifties style.

Led by designer Mary Adams, members of The Lower Eastside Girls Club at 56 East First Street completed a five-week Couture Camp on Friday with a basement photo shoot and a strut down a makeshift catwalk, where they modeled creations such as skirts, blouses and the deconstructed wedding dresses.

IMG_3374Chelsia Rose MarciusGirls Club catwalk.

“I’ve never actually done anything before like it,” said Brendis Gonzalez, 17. “We didn’t just make clothes, we learned about what it’s like to be in the fashion industry.”

Ms. Pentecost said the program “is not about personal consumption” but rather about “creativity and career opportunities.”

This summer included trips to Teen Vogue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Alexander McQueen exhibit, “Savage Beauty.” Ms. Pentecost said the club plans to exhibit the gowns in its gallery to raise funds for next year’s camp.

“All of the girls come from families who cannot afford camp fees,” she said. “We live in a society deeply divided by class, and the gap grows wider every year. What we provide girls through our programs is social capital, knowledge and skills they can use to overcome their families’ lack of personal financial resources.”

Fashion blogger and Girls Club member Nova Bajamonti, 16, said she prefers eccentric, exaggerated details like those that appear in the works of John Galliano, Givenchy and other avant-garde designers.

IMG_3467Chelsia Rose MarciusNova Bajamonti

“If I see something I can use, I just grab it,” she said. “I like big hats, big flowers, big bows, big everything.” She opted for an oversized bow at the neckline of her remade wedding dress.

The girls were not keen on tearing up the poufy, polyester gowns at first, said Ms. Adams, who recalled a few skeptical looks when she announced the idea of dress deconstruction. But after the girls took scissors to the stiff skirts and lacy sleeves, Ms. Adams said they left their doubts at the door.

“This project freed them up— they knew how to use a sewing machine and they knew that they did not have to sew completely perfect,” she said. “They could zip up a seam, throw on some spray paint, and say, ‘yeah, I made that.’”