The Artisan Studio I: Crafting Sustainable Communities class is most known for their eclectic breast cancer awareness dresses. This project is such a standout because the goal is to create a dress made entirely out of non-fabric materials and had to be pink to bring awareness to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. These garments sometimes are displayed in store windows downtown and can be submitted to Jury of Selection to be shown in the fashion show. It’s a project that is known to be innovative and also sends out a powerful message about breast cancer.


The direction that I went in was I thought of one of my good friend’s mom who just passed away that year due to breast cancer. My friend and I are both adopted from the same orphanage in China and both of our moms are Chinese. I also had done some research and found out that breast cancer is the #2 leading cause of death in Asian/Pacific Islander women. This really struck a chord with me and then I knew that I wanted the design to pay homage to our Chinese heritage. The rationale I provided for this particular project is as follows:


“Breast cancer is the #2 leading cause of death by cancer in Asian/Pacific Islander women. This is due to a lack of knowledge and access to breast cancer screenings. Many women do not have access to healthcare or are unaware about the importance of breast cancer screenings. Women’s lives could be saved or prolonged just by going to see a doctor and asking to get screened.


This dress was created from paper products such as: Pink Chinese New Year envelopes, white letter envelopes, and origami lotuses made from butcher paper. Other materials used are a fiberglass screen and embroidery floss. The pink origami pays tribute to Japanese culture and lotus flowers represent femininity and perseverance in the Chinese culture. The Chinese New Year envelopes promote longevity and good health, the white letter envelopes signify the action of sending a message/spreading the word, and the fiberglass screen represents a breast cancer screening.”


The creation of my pink dress was quite the journey and I haven’t had that much fun creating something hands on like that in a long time. I was able to get as creative as I wanted without being weighed down by my construction skills. I also made this dress with the idea of my roommate, Monica Nakamatsu, being the model. I draped the dress base using painted fiber glass screen exactly to her measurements so that it would fit her perfectly. Then I constructed many origami lotus flowers using painted butcher paper. Because the dress base was a screen, I had to hot glue the flowers onto the bodice by putting paper beneath and then ripping the paper off of the hot glue. I constructed the bodice and skirt to be two pieces in order to make the process of putting it on and taking it off fairly easy and easily mobile to move around in. The bodice had a lace up closure in the back and the skirt had a Velcro closure.


Next, I glued on the pink Chinese New Year envelopes onto the skirt base in layers to give off the effect I wanted to achieve. I wanted the skirt to represent half of a flower when laid out flat and added in the white envelopes upside down to give the illusion of petals. The next step was adding in more pink Chinese New Year envelopes to the armholes and the collar. I left the bodice sleeveless and with a Mandarin collar to pay more tribute to Asian dressage and inspiration. The last part was creating the closures of the Velcro for the skirt and adding grommets to the back to create the holes for the laces. This project took me a very long time, but it was the first creative project that I had felt genuine excitement the whole time.


My pink dress was selected for Jury and was then also selected for the fashion show as well. The photographer that takes photos at Jury, Aaron Ottis, liked my creation so much that he offered to come up with a concept shoot on his own time and dime. I was flattered and took him up on his offer and I gave some of my ideas, but he pulled everything together including concept, backdrops, and props. This was a pivotal moment for me because I felt validated for my creative endeavors. In my previous two years of college, this was the first time I truly felt proud of something I made and feeling rewarded for my hard work.


Model is Monica Nakamatsu and the photographer is Aaron Ottis.