DIY explosion: my teen and I made a dress out of candy wrappers

June 16 | Guest post by Jennifer Schildknecht
All photos by Jennifer Schildknecht.
I'd been itching to dive in and thoroughly immerse myself in a huge creative project all winter — any medium would be just dandy. As spring approached, I was ready to climb the walls! What could possibly scratch that itch? Then inspiration struck — what could be sweeter than a one-of-a-kind dress created with my fourteen-year-old, Hannah?

I quickly decided to pull out all the stops for this one…. sewing, painting, Mod Podging, dyeing, duct taping, and ironing candy wrappers. I tried to keep this idea a secret from her until I knew it could work, but the candy-snarfing friends and family I'd solicited for donations let the cat out of the bag, and after numerous stories about what I was up to, I had to eventually admit it: I was planning a dress for my daughter made entirely from candy wrappers. Yep, you heard me right. A candy wrapper dress.

Had I ever created a candy wrapper dress before? Had I ever done anything with candy wrappers? Nope, but I never let a thing like that stop me.

What You Need

  • LOTS of candy wrappers! You either have to eat a ton of candy or find friends who don't mind doing so, because you'll need TONS. We used old-fashioned candies that are wrapped in wax-coated paper.
  • A dress design. We decided on a simple wrap-style dress with a full skirt and flounce all the way around.
  • Muslin — this is what I used to create the dress design before applying the wrappers.
  • Mod Podge

How You Make It

First things first: collect your candy wrappers. Once you have amassed your load, place the wrappers between two stacks of newspapers. You want these to be at least two sheets thick — you do NOT want wax on your iron or ironing board cover! Then you slowly and smoothly iron over the top of the newspaper to make sure you hit all of the wrappers. This way they'll actually stick when you Mod Podge them onto the fabric.

We thought we had this thing figured out, but not all candy wrappers are created equal! None were the same size! I thought at least all of one particular kind of candy papers would be identical, but no.The size variations made patterning like we'd planned a wee bit more challenging.

Hannah has a great eye for color and pattern, and she's fairly handy with the Mod Podge too, so we jumped in and got it done. We found that all the ironing and handling had left the papers a wee bit fragile, so we 'Podged over them lightly once they were on the dress. We also found pretty quickly that the papers might not be quite secure enough to actually wear this dress, so I stitched each and every paper to the dress fabric…. a grueling job, but the effect was interesting, and worth it.

Once I sewed the dress pieces together, we realized that there were too too many gaps on the skirt where the wrappers didn't fit together and the muslin showed. After mulling it over, we chose a lovely teal dye (just good ol' Rit powder mixed in a spray bottle), hung the dress on a tree limb outside and sprayed the entire creation, allowing the dye to drip and splatter over and between the wrappers. Not only did it fill in the gaps beautifully, creating a gorgeous teal background, it caused all the wrapper colors to blend together nicely.

I soon realized that the flounces we'd planned just were not going to work for this project…. the sleeves looked more like armor than ruffles! That left us with a new dilemma — how to finish the raw edges of the dress. We quickly learned this is not a problem when one has a stash of brightly colored Duck Tape! My daughter chose hot pink and teal tape, and left this step entirely up to me. I started with the pink and soon found that it was just too bright now that we'd dyed the dress, and it was too slippery to attempt dyeing over it. I added a border of teal tape over the pink, and then coated all of the tape with a nice thick coat of Mod Podge. Perfect fix!

The dress needed a closure at the waist, since we'd ditched the idea of the tie belt. We decided on two very large snaps inside the front waist. Without the flounces or the belt, the dress screamed for some detailing here at the front. We decided to attempt a large rosette from the unused sleeve flounce. I rolled it tightly and hand-stitched it at the bottom, forming the center of the flower. I continued to roll and stitch until I had a large floppy flower, which I then stitched to a very large safety pin. This lovely blossom was then pinned onto the dress where it overlapped at the waist.

At this point, I realized that without that flounce along the front edge, the skirt might gape a bit too much at the front. Mama to the rescue again — I created my very first crinoline! The crinoline wasn't very difficult to figure out: we needed two 12" rectangles of muslin one and a half times the width of the hips sewn together at the sides, with a casing for elastic folded and then sewn at the top, creating the top of the petticoat. A very long gathered strip of tulle was attached at the bottom.

Of course, we then realized that the muslin might show in the gap of the skirt, so it was back to the tree limb with the spray bottle of Rit. The way the dye puddled and dripped into the tulle was delicious!

Hannah and I have created together many times over her lifetime, but alongside each other, not really together — and certainly not a piece of wearable art. This project was delightful… so much creativity flying about! I don't know if we can top this project, but I hope that we can create together again soon!

  1. I want to know more about this guest poster! This was such a cool idea, and it turned out really amazing. I like how it looks a bit like quiltwork from a distance 🙂

  2. That's awesome!!!

    My Mom and I made a skirt from a rain coat when I was a teenager. I loved it.

  3. This is really amazing! I've seen other things made out of candy wrappers, and it always impresses. I had a bag made out of them, although it was one I bought, and I took this photo in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney in April. The flowers were made from food wrappers, by women in the Philippines if I remember correctly.

  4. GIRL! Holy Freakin' Catskills. 🙂 I knew you were amazing… but I'm about to make even my "Smithsonian Displayed" quilting -mother jealous 😉 Sending her this link now♥ Girl – this is totally astounding.

  5. This is AWESOME!! I'm so deeply inspired!!! You are amazing….LOVE this…I have to share this with everyone I know….

  6. Thank you all so much!
    This was such a fun project…just PLAY, really!
    And I can't wait to try this out on something else… accessories maybe…. 😀

  7. I'm part of an organization called Haute Trash, where we design and model trash fashion. It's been up and running since the 80's and will rock your socks 🙂

    check out our website hautetrash.com

  8. A charming dress without knowing it's made of candy wrappers. The final design, patchwork pattern and color palette are all delightful. The flower is a beautiful finishing touch. The fact that it's all made of candy wrappers is an amazing and humorous twist. What a great mother/daughter project!

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