Etsy Upcycle Recycling Contest - Mallory Whitfield
Mallory Whitfield
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Etsy Upcycle Recycling Contest

Not too long after I first started Miss Malaprop, I entered the Etsy Upcycle Recycling Contest, back in January 2007. The challenge was to create something amazing out of materials that otherwise would have been thrown away. Inspiration struck almost immediately for me, as this was less than a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and the federal levee disaster happened in New Orleans. I was surrounded by trash and debris on a daily basis.

For Mardi Gras the year before, I’d participated in a fashion show where local designers created garments out of the blue tarp material that was ubiquitous here in NOLA at the time. I’d since accumulated more of it, as people kept asking me to make stuff out of the blue plastic tarps for them. So I took some of the leftover FEMA tarp, and created a bustier, skirt, and flower choker:

fema dress, made from upcycled FEMA blue tarp left over from Hurricane Katrina

fema dress, made from upcycled FEMA blue tarp left over from Hurricane Katrina

fema dress, made from upcycled FEMA blue tarp left over from Hurricane Katrina

It was a nationwide contest, and I won 3rd place!!

Not only that, my FEMA tarp outfit was featured on MAKE and Boing Boing!! I was Internet famous for a hot second.

I couldn’t be happier. The 1st and 2nd place winners of Etsy’s Upcycling Contest were two of my absolute faves: the “weiner bench” and a fab winter coat made from recycled shopping bags.

Etsy purchased my blue tarp FEMA outfit and had it on display at their opening night party celebrating their Etsy Labs in Brooklyn. Thanks to the lovely miss Luca Cusolito, the lady behind Creative Enabler, for the photo.

A little backstory, and the inspiration for this outfit…

During Mardi Gras 2006, I participated in a fashion show fundraiser charity auction to benefit the America’s Wetland organization. The only rule for the auction was that all of the outfits had to be made using blue tarp as the primary material.

the first outfit I made out of blue tarp

the first outfit I made out of blue tarp

the first outfit I made out of blue tarp

the first outfit I made out of blue tarp, featured in the Times Picayune newspaper

My 1st blue tarp dress made the front page of the Times-Picayune Living section that week and prompted requests for me to make some simple dresses out of this FEMA blue tarp material. A lady had found a big pile of it on the side of the road, and I made her and her friend dresses out of it for them to wear on Mardi Gras. I had a TON left over though, and the Upcycle contest finally gave me an excuse to use up some more of it.

Pretty good for some junk that otherwise would have been thrown away, right?

About the Author Mallory Whitfield

Mallory Whitfield has been making things and performing for as long as she can remember. She started blogging at in 2006, and currently hosts the Badass Creatives podcast. Throughout her journey as a creative entrepreneur, Mallory has worn many hats, including blogger, visual artist, upcycled clothing creator, performance artist, jewelry designer, craft show vendor, creative strategist, speaker, teacher and consultant to other small business owners. She worked as Content Analyst at FSC Interactive, a leading digital marketing agency, prior to taking on her current role as Director of Marketing at LookFar, a New Orleans-based startup studio which builds digital products and visionary companies.

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Badass Creatives is hosted by Mallory Whitfield and features marketing and business advice for creatives, as well as interviews with a diverse range of handmade artists, performers, makers, and creative entrepreneurs.

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