How to Make Recycled Plastic Dresses

Written by john sauls
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How to Make Recycled Plastic Dresses
Find some plastic and make a dress. (Chris Clinton/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Making a recycled dress is a great way to make a fashion statement, while at the same time making a strong environmental statement. Construct a dress made from recycled plastic without advanced sewing skills following these simple instructions. Artists, hobbyists and recycling enthusiasts are all making clothing from recycled plastic materials. All types of people from homemakers to those in the art world are designing dresses from recycled plastic. Make a dress to wear, to sell online or to use as a school science project.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Plastic items
  • Wire
  • Jump rings
  • Hole punch
  • Tin snips or scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Duct tape

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  1. 1

    Gather plastic items that you can use to make a dress. Strips of old mylar balloons, plastic bags, vinyl signs, old credit cards or ID cards are ideal and require minimal modification. Useful items that require more work in order to use are plastic food containers, soda bottles and soda bottle caps. More creative items include caution tape, old computer parts, seat belt buckles, plastic jewellery, plastic toys and decorative items.

  2. 2

    Use a measuring tape or a piece of clothing that already fits as a guide and lay out pieces of plastic next to each other so they're wide enough to go around the upper body and tall enough to go from the sternum to the waist. Use tin snips to cut food containers or computer parts to fit. For hard plastic pieces, punch holes 1/4 inch from the edges in each place they need to connect.

  3. 3

    Connect adjacent plastic pieces with wire, jump rings or duct tape to create a tube that will form the bodice of the dress. Cut more recycled strips of material that are the length from the waist to the bottom of the dress. Add 1 extra inch of length for attaching the skirt to the top. Measure the circumference of the waist at the smallest point and cut out a length of duct tape this length plus 9 inches.

  4. 4

    Put the duct tape sticky side up on a work surface. Turn under both ends of the duct tape toward the work surface and arrange strips of soft plastic lengthwise along the duct tape, attaching the end of each strip to this duct tape waist band. Put another piece of duct tape on top of the line of plastic strips.

  5. 5

    Attach one end of the skirt to the bottom front centre of the dress bodice, using either duct tape or a hole punch and jump rings or wire. Wrap the skirt around and let the other end overlap the starting point of the waist band. Use the punch and wire to attach any extras desired to decorate the dress such as a plastic doll hanging from the skirt, a flower at the shoulder, crocheted plastic bag shoulder straps or a belt made from a recycled car seat belt. Use any number of items; the only limit is your imagination and the particular style statement you are trying to make with your dress.

Tips and warnings

  • Create plastic fabric by ironing together multiple layers of grocery bags. Place several layers of plastic between two sheets of waxed paper. The bottom sheet of waxed paper protects the ironing board and the top sheet protects your iron. You can then cut these thicker plastic sheets to specific shapes and sizes for details on the dress.
  • A simple dress pattern may be helpful if you desire a particular shape or style of dress.
  • Achieve a more flexible fit by fabricating the waist, hip and chest sections with crocheted plastic bags, creating a smocked effect.
  • Use duct tape over wire connections on the sides of the dress for ease of arm movement and overall comfort.
  • Always use caution when using an iron, being sure to protect your skin, your iron and your ironing surface.
  • When heating plastic, open a window, turn on an exhaust fan or use other adequate means of ventilation.
  • Remember that some recycled plastic may have harmful chemicals on it. Clean the plastic before melting with your iron.

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