Cardboard Couture: From Conception to Runway Debut

The five-member team at the Read(y) To Wear event.

What do fashion, paperboard product packaging and literacy have in common? Answer: The Read(y) to Wear submission from a team of Promega employees for an event put on by the Madison Reading Project. With a challenge that stated teams need to make a garment mostly of paper, the resulting creations would be displayed on a runway as part of a charitable evening for an organization dedicated to bringing books to children.

Volunteering to be part of what became a five-person team to create a wearable garment from paper was the easy part. Our first few meetings we were experimenting with ideas and techniques using paper we could access on campus: Print catalogs, discarded books and our prototype product kit boxes. It was the kit boxes with the David Goodsell imagery that inspired our ideas to create a suit of armor. The paperboard boxes protect the products we ship to customers like a suit of armor protects warriors in battle.

Okay, we had our garment idea and settled on the source material, but none of the five of us had ever made a suit of armor, much less out of cardboard. What had we signed ourselves up for? Luckily, one of our team members found an online pattern for a suit of armor and understanding how the pieces fit together helped us when figuring out what we wanted to create.

The skilled assistance of Packaging Engineering plus their precision cutting table helped form the pattern for our suit of armor.

Of course, the design changed a few times and initial ideas were discussed and discarded as we dove into fashioning our suit of armor. We also had to come up with a team name (Paperboard Warriors), a name for our garment “Promega Paladin” and craft a statement that explained the origin of our outfit. In our case, this was requested before we had a complete picture of what we wanted to do, adding an extra dimension to the paper fashion challenge.

Crafting our garment required all the collective creativity from the entire team. When trying to figure out what to use to support all the cardboard for the outfit, woven plastic chicken feed bags became the underlayment. Creative cutting and hole punching resulted in the decorative scale design around the neck. Hot glue kept many pieces together. By the time we were done, our model would be covered from head to toe in our armor design. We were nervous but ready for the fashion runway debut.

Making progress on constructing the armor from kit boxes.

The Read(y) to Wear paper fashion show showcased incredible competition across six categories. While we competed with four other corporate teams, there were cross-team opportunities to win for the best literary reference and best use of paper as well as an overall winner. There was a creative and towering entrant for the literary reference, the best use of paper prize impressed on the runway and a corporate team lit up the event as the overall winner. While our team did not win, we were proud of our entry and of course, our model who displayed our paperboard outfit on the runway for the audience and judges. As a result of the paper fashion show of which we were part, the Madison Literacy Project was able to raise over $24,000 for bringing books to children in the community.

Final assembly of our armor on our model.
The runway debut of our 2019 Ready to Wear entry.
Team and model pose on the runway after the show.

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Sara Klink

Technical Writer at Promega Corporation
Sara is a native Wisconsinite who grew up on a fifth-generation dairy farm and decided she wanted to be a scientist at age 12. She was educated at the University of Wisconsin—Parkside, where she earned a B.S. in Biology and a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology before earning her second Master’s degree in Oncology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. She has worked for Promega Corporation for more than 15 years, first as a Technical Services Scientist, currently as a Technical Writer. Sara enjoys talking about her flock of entertaining chickens and tries not to be too ambitious when planning her spring garden.

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