“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” as the proverb goes, and students took it to heart — and to the runway — during Bates’ 16th annual Trashion Show, and the first in-person edition since 2019. From Rococo royalty to cowgirl chic, students showed that trash “can”, as they blended creativity with sustainability and delivered this year’s hottest trashions.
To set the stage: It’s Nov. 16, the beginning of the holiday season at Bates. Outside Commons, horses’ hooves clip-clop on the pavement, the air’s cold enough to make you blink, and light glows from Commons windows; inside, students, staff, faculty, family, and friends are enjoying the Harvest Dinner.
Not far away, music booms from the Gray Athletic Building. Inside, behind those thumping speakers and black curtained stage, student designers are putting the final touches on their recycled creations and praying nothing falls off during the model’s turn on the catwalk. Time is ticking, and in true academic fashion, the last few moments are the busiest.
The Trashion Show is produced by the student EcoReps, and for EcoRep Aneeza Ahmad ’25 of Sharon, Mass., it’s a chance for students to have some fun, not take themselves “too seriously,” and experience the spotlight, all while hearing some important messages about recycling and sustainability.
The event highlights the amount and variety of trash Bates produces. As the students get hands-on with what they throw away — and the audience sees it all — Tom Twist, Bates’ sustainability manager, hopes they think a little more about the myriad ways they can reduce, reuse, and recycle.
The pandemic did a number on recycling across the country, as single-use and disposable products and packaging increased. All that trash “really played havoc with our system,” says Twist, and the lull in habitual recycling took a toll on Bates’ waste management system, and on students’ habits.
Pre-pandemic, the Bates recycling rate was around 30 percent, and now, it’s around 15 percent. “Most students want to do the right thing, they just aren’t sure of the details,” says Twist. The plan is to “get good recycling back on the radar, and build good habits.”
And what better way to impress those habits on students than through a little music, good food, and a great show? Here are some of our favorites from this year’s Trashion Show:
Rococo on the Runway
Above, 18th-century Rococo fashion is reimagined in the age of plastic as Bora Lugunda ’25 of Kinshasa, Congo, models the second-place winning “Marie Antoinette en Plastique,” a billowy chemise gown made from trash bags and plastic sheeting, and a “bergère” hat made from cardboard and brown packing paper, designed by Grace Acton ’24 of Harvard, Mass.
Acton took inspiration from Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s infamous 1783 portrait of the French royal, and reminded the audience that “in Marie Antoinette’s day, the overconsumption of rapidly changing fashion was limited to the extremely wealthy — let our design be a reminder to not let fast fashion make you lose your head!”
The Future is Now
Wearing a “puffy jacket-inspired” outfit and accessories made from discarded bubble wrap, chip bags, coupons, a mesh orange bag, and straws, Lily Ritch ’25 of Cincinnati models a design by Emma Righter ’23 of Clearwater, Fla., and Ella Lungstrum ’23 of Brooklyn, N.Y.
They sewed and fused the plastics together as a patchwork, and used metallic touches to evoke a “futuristic” theme and their commitment to sustainability and “sporting sick ’fits.'”
Coming to a Bookstore Near You
This year’s first-place winner had a height advantage: Miguel Pacheco ’24 of San José, Costa Rica, traded the stage for stilts, wearing a sweeping two-piece outfit, crown, and handbag made of recycled book covers, created by Sloan Phillips ’25 of Evergreen, Colo.
Phillips collected the dust jackets throughout the semester while working at the library, and with the help of a few friends, turned them into the winning ensemble.
Leen Dockery ’26 of Rye, N.Y., wears a self-created, cowgirl-inspired outfit made from discarded cardboard from Parker Hall’s fourth-floor recycling bin. The two-piece outfit came with a hobby horse-esque bucking bronco, boots, and a classic cowgirl hat (seen tossed to the floor) also made from cardboard.
Everything But the Pool
Representing the Bates swimming and diving team, Quinn Macauley ’24 of Wilmington, Del., wears a “mermaid-inspired” outfit made from trash and discarded swim gear collected from Tarbell Pool, designed by Talia Skaistis ’25 of New York City, and Lianna Rosman ’26 of Bethesda, Md. Close inspection will reveal segments of an old lane line, pieces of a pull buoy, a dissected swim parachute, and several snorkels.
Take a Sip, Babes
Winning third place, Claire Barlass ’25 of Duluth, Minn., wore a self-designed “milk dress” made from discarded milk cartons from Commons, an outfit that served double-duty as her Halloween costume this year while showing the true spirit of “reduce, reuse, recycle.”
Barlass added a choker made from bottle caps and shoes made from bubble wrap to complete the catwalk-ready creation.
Snacks on Snacks on Snacks
In a munchies-inducing outfit, Henry Welch ’25 of Istanbul, Turkey, wears a “chic, yet delicious” outfit made of snack and candy bags, and shoes made from Goldfish cracker boxes, created by Welch, Ben Huston ’25 of Vergennes, Vt., and Jonah Yaffe ’26 of Dallas.