Mastering Milkweed: From Floss to Fashion

Publication Year:
2014
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artifact description
Using nature’s provisions is fundamental in making progress towards sustainable fashion. Milkweed is a thriving American plant known for its lustrous white floss and its use as a primary food source to the Monarch butterfly. Although milkweed tends to be viewed as a nuisance weed it has the potential to become a creative medium in fashion design because of the softness, luster, and buoyancy present in its floss. My goal was to develop new fabrication methods highlighting these characteristics. Through creative use of the milkweed floss, I ultimately created an evening gown incorporating both milkweed floss and organza fabric in a new, unique way, mimicking the feathers of a peacock. Milkweed pods, collected the previous August, were frozen to allow better control when manipulating the delicate floss, as dry floss inherently scatters uncontrollably when the pod is opened. Innovative work was done with the experimentation of layering organza with milkweed floss as the inner layer. This technique achieved the requisite third dimension needed to exhibit the fan-like appearance of an open tail. Long strips of fabric layered and then individually quilted with additional oblong circles of organza, attributed to the three-dimensional appearance. As the project progressed, the qualities of buoyancy, softness, and luster became strikingly obvious. Draping techniques were then used to fashion a fluid bodice accented with narrow remnants of organza and hand beading to unify the design. The final gown emphasizes that using milkweed with other fabrics in creative applications will help this abundant weed to play an influential role in sustainable fashion.