Sewanee's costume studio upcycles to benefit students, community, environment

Over the past year, the costume studio of the Theatre and Dance Department has worked to be mindful of the textile and clothing waste generated. Clothing and textiles influence our environment in a variety of ways—from the growing/creation of the fibers, to dyeing and processing the cloth, to the discarded scraps and clothing that end up in landfills. The costume studio has always reused cloth scraps and old costumes. Now a small group of students and department faculty have begun to be more intentional about their recycling efforts. By using surplus clothing donated to the Hospitality Shop, a local reuse store, the costume studio has begun to upcycle donated clothing.

Located on University Ave, the Hospitality Shop is a thrift housewares and clothing store where you can find quality used merchandise at low prices. The proceeds have for years supported Emerald-Hodgson Hospital, first responders, and local schools. The store is staffed with volunteers and frequently receives a daunting amount of clothing. Some items may be torn or dirty, or out of style, and therefore unable to be sold. This is where Sewanee's costume studio has stepped in. We have items cleaned, repaired, or altered to make them more desirable to consumers. In instances where we are not able to create clothing, other kinds of textile goods (such as fabrics for quilting, buttons, or buckles) can saved and reused in new projects. By extending the life of previously discarded items, we hope to create less waste and help these items do what they were donated do—benefit the people of our community.

This upcycling work has directly benefited the Theatre and Dance Department as well. Not only have student workers been able to hone their costume and design skills, but many upcycled items have made their way onto the stage. Most recently, Theatre Sewanee’s production of Good Kids was costumed with 70 percent reused clothing, much of it from Sewanee’s own Hospitality Shop.

In celebration of the ongoing upcycling efforts and to increase the awareness of this work on campus, we be hosting an Earth Week fashion show in the Studio Theatre of the Tennessee Williams Center. All are welcome to attend and enjoy Sewanee’s first Upcycle/Recycle Fashion Show at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27. Thrift store finds will be modeled to inspire ways to dress in a more earth-friendly manner. Goods displayed in the lobby will be on sale after the show with all proceeds to benefit the Hospitality Shop.

Professor of Theatre Arts Jennifer Matthews, in the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability spring newsletter. See the full newsletter here.