When the opportunity arose to take part in her school’s recycle fashion show, Ella White found the inspiration for her upcycled outfit close to home – the family farm.
And by dressing up as a Friesian fashionista, the 10-year-old student from Bunscoil Loreto in Gorey, Co Wexford, impressed the judges and walked away with the fourth class category prize.
Speaking to IFJ Junior following her win, Ella explained that she spends a lot of time on the dairy farm run by her granny and uncle, Eileen and John Stafford.
“Sometimes my nanny collects me from school and I’d help up at the farm,” said Ella, whose jobs include helping to bed the calves. She also has a favourite cow called Mary, who lets her “rub her back and her forehead”.
It was actually Ella’s granny who suggested that she should do a cow-themed outfit when she was considering what to dress up as for her school’s annual fashion show.
“I thought about it and I really wanted to do it,” continued Ella. “She gave me the white bedsheet to do the base of the dress.”
With the help of her mother, Ann Marie, Ella sewed the dress out of the bedsheet, which was trimmed at the edges with pieces of newspaper from the Irish Farmers Journal. She then used black leggings and a black t-shirt to make the cow’s spots, spray gluing them in place.
She also has a favourite cow called Mary, who lets her “rub her back and her forehead”
“But my dad had to help me with that because I kept sticking my fingers together!” she giggled.
Of course, accessories are a very important part of any outfit, so Ella upcycled a black headband by spray gluing sections from the white bed sheet onto it. She also made a handbag out of cardboard, spray gluing the Freisian-inspired pattern again and making a love heart clasp out of cardboard and string.
Then, to complete the look, she made earrings out of old cow tags from the farm, using old clip-ons as the base.
Despite the time and effort involved, however, Ella said she was very surprised when her outfit won the fourth class prize category in the fashion show and parade, which was held before the Easter holidays.
“It was very cool and very exciting and I didn’t really expect to win it,” said Ella modestly.
Impressed the judges
However, for Karen Mernagh, student council liaison teacher, it was easy to see why Ella’s outfit impressed.
“The adjudicators had said that it was very different,” she explained. “Going for a farming background theme was very different from any of the other costumes and I think the earrings and the bag, all the accessories really tied it all together, so they were very impressed.”
Karen told IFJ Junior that Bunscoil Loreto has run the recycle fashion show for the last eight years, and that it is a highlight in the students’ calendars, with up to 100 applicants taking part from second class up to sixth, either as individual entrants or working in groups of up to three.
It’s really important that children are involved in recycling and upcycling, because at the end of the day, they’re the future of not only our country, but our planet
“We’re always trying to think of new ways to protect our environment and it’s letting children explore different ways that they can use older clothes in their wardrobe and making them into different materials – e.g if there’s a dress, making it into a top – and just thinking outside the box,” she explained.
“It lets them use all their imagination and creative skills and for many children, it was working in groups, which was really important for the kids.”
School principal Aileen Kennedy added that she was “extremely proud” of the creativity of all the students involved, and coming from a farming background herself, was “really taken with Ella’s outfit.”
She believes that an initiative like the recycle fashion show plays an important role in teaching children about subjects like fast fashion, and encourages them to use their imagination for the greater good.
“It’s really important that children are involved in recycling and upcycling, because at the end of the day, they’re the future of not only our country, but our planet,” she said.
And speaking of the future, Ella told IFJ Junior that she would love to work with animals when she grows up, and is considering a career in farming. Before that though, she looks forward to participating in the recycle fashion show again.
“When it comes around next year, I want to do a new theme,” she said.
Watch this space.