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Dissolvable gown is fit for unlikely marriage

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Issued:07/05/10

There are often tears at weddings but you'd need to be careful if you wore one of these creations as they dissolve when they come into contact with water.

The elaborate designs are the result of an unlikely marriage between fashion and engineering students at Sheffield Hallam University.

They combined forces to create a wedding dress that could be dissolved after the wedding to transform it into five new fashion pieces. As each layer of the dress is dissolved it reveals the next piece, while the last layer is intended to be kept as a memento. The layers are made of polyvinvyl alcohol, an environmentally-friendly polymer that dissolves when it comes into contact with water.

The pieces, each a stage of the transformation process, are now on public display at the University's Furnival Gallery.

Jane Blohm, a lecturer on the fashion design course at Sheffield Hallam, said: "The students wanted to challenge the notion that a wedding dress should only be used once and aimed to explore modern society's attitudes towards throwaway fashion.

"The project is a union between art and technology which explores the possibilities of using alternative materials for our clothing. The wedding gown is perhaps one of the most iconic and symbolic garments in humanity's wardrobe and represents the challenges of 'throwaway fashion'.

"In order to reduce fashion's impact on the environment, the fashion industry must begin to challenge conventional attitudes and practices.

"The exhibition demonstrates what could be possible when design and scientific innovation combine forces." 

In recent years, with the rise of ‘value retailers' such as Primark, H&M and TK Maxx, and supermarket fashion ranges, the price of clothing in the UK has dropped by up to 25 per cent.

The five stages of the wedding dress
The dress in its full glory
The final two fashion pieces
The final wall hanging
Jane Blohm with the students who worked on the dresses

Click to view the images

At the same time, the amount of clothes we buy has increased by almost 40 per cent to more than two million tonnes a year. 

As a result, textiles have become the fastest-growing waste product in the UK. About 74 per cent of those two million tonnes of clothes we buy each year end up in landfills.

Dr Abdul Hoque, associate lecturer and researcher, said the idea to create the dress came about after he approached the fashion course organisers about an idea to develop a new generation of clothing.

He said: "I was thinking about creating a new generation of clothes, especially when it comes to disposal. I have been working on water soluble polymers involving compatible coatings which will extend the life of the material and also be bio-degradable.

"The reaction to the dress has been marvellous - it has created a lot of interest around the world and I am very impressed that two disciplines worked well together."

For press information contact: Tess Humphrys on 0114 225 4025 or email pressoffice@shu.ac.uk