Upcycled wedding dress made from men’s cast-off shirts fits eco challenge for artist Carmel Ryan

Artist Carmel Ryan's dress she made from shirts

Can you imagine wearing anything more odd than 25 used men’s dress shirts on your wedding day?

Then picture those shirts with scruffy collars, sweaty armpits, missing buttons, and faded elbows — all simmering in a pile in the corner of a laundry room.

To Northern Territory artist Carmel Ryan, they are inspiration: she decided they would make the perfect upcycled wedding gown, and she is open to lending it to a bride.

Woman wearing dress made of old dress shirtsPHOTO: Talisha Lee models the upcycled wedding dress at Eco Fashion Week in Port Douglas. (Supplied: David Woolley)

Ryan’s project came about in response to an Eco Fashion Week Australia challenge to create catwalk clothes from men’s shirts.

It brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘dress shirt’.

She initially planned to go an op shop for the shirts until she discovered how popular they were.

“I was told all the white shirts are stored out the back because there are lots of funerals, and when communities come to town they want the white shirts,” she said.

So, she turned to the community for help.

Ryan sourced the shirts needed for the dress from the wardrobes of 25 Alice Springs men from all walks of life.

They included Mayor Damien Ryan, a pastoralist, a hairdresser, and 2020 Senior Australian of the Year nominee and Rat of Tobruk, Sydney Kinsman.

“Fitting Syd’s shirt in was really a moving part of the whole story, because of what he’s done and the community spirit,” she said.

“I [also] went in to my solicitor and said I wanted the shirt off his back. He offered to take it off there and then.”

Ryan said some shirts were so worn out she had to cut away some fabric.

“I did have to pick some bits off, but it’s worked well; it’s very ruffly,” she said of the finished gown.

Sonja van Bavel modelling a wedding dress made from shirts on catwalk at Alice Aviation MuseumPHOTO: The dress featured in the Sustainable Couture Show at the Central Australia Aviation Museum. (Supplied: Claire Ryan)

“Men’s dress shirts are [worn] for weddings, funerals, secret men’s business [so] I felt there was a great story and an overall community feel about the dress.”

Ryan’s wedding gown has been seen on catwalks from Port Douglas, to Fremantle and Darwin, and in its town of origin, Alice Springs.

As for what a bride could expect from a wedding dress made of 25 second-hand men’s dress shirts?

“It’s very comfortable I’ve been told,” Ryan said.

“You can trash it, get it dirty, throw it in the Napisan, and it comes up like new.

“I don’t know if my daughters would like to wear it, but I would love to see someone wear it.

“I’d love to loan it to someone if it really meant something to them.”

[“source=abc”]