Elizabeth (Beth)

Systems & Society


This 4-look collection acts as an exploration of fashion design that exists at the intersection of materials perceived as “waste” and methods of craft-based making to address the larger systemic issues surrounding climate change and pollution. I exclusively worked with discarded t-shirts and leather in order to highlight their beauty and use-value alike through various methods of craft and textile manipulation. The pursuit of a career in fashion design has depleted my overall health and resulted in chronic fatigue and a heart arrhythmia
this past summer. Craft-based making models do not allow for the extractivist patterns of the fashion industry to occur, they require slowness and technique essential to more sustainable ways of manufacturing clothing and textiles. The goals of “Sustaining the Self” culminated in a workshop for Parsons students that demonstrated how to make yarn from unwanted t-shirts and explore what waste can look like in design and art practices, a format that can be scaled and replicated for the betterment of people and the planet alike.
Image: Years ago, my father presented me with a pile of his old t-shirts with tears, stains, or stretched-out collars, which is how I first familiarized myself with making yarn out of t-shirts. Inspired by the tree our initials are carved into, this sweater was hand-knit using over 9 of my partner's old shirts in an effort to ascribe the material with new use-value.
Image: Size inclusivity and adaptability are critical to designing clothing that is meant to last and be maintained. Using the intarsia design from the original sweater, this garment can be worn as a scarf, a tunic, and a set of sleeves, allowing for a greater range of bodies to wear it.
Image: The yarn made from the sweater was too thick to be knitted on a knitting machine, so a smaller yarn compatible with a 2.5 gauge Dubied was developed. Swatches were iterated under the idea of "intentional color working" in order to keep the limited nature of t-shirt yarn in mind.
Image: The t-shirt yarn cutting & making process confronted me with the issue of byproducts, one of these being the hems of the t-shirts. In an effort to make this a zero-waste process, the hems were adhered to each other and sewn with a decorative zig-zag stitch.
Image: An additional byproduct of the t-shirt yarn process was the collars of the shirts. These collars were serged into a fabric, one with a natural structure and curvature. By adding straps, adjustable hardware, and buckles, this garment could be made to fit a range of different bodies.
Image: After sorting out the accessory-grade leather pieces from FabScrap (a Brooklyn-based textile recycler), a patchwork textile was assembled and draped onto the body. This was then adapted into smaller, modular garments with a strap and buckle system for size inclusivity.
Image: A patchwork lambskin scrap textile was created and draped onto the body, hand-basted to enable a custom fit dress from inherently one-off material.
Image: A patchwork suede scrap textile was made and draped on the form, to then be attached to a cut-and-sew pant.
Image: Patchwork pants made from color-blocking sections of various t-shirts.
Image: Whole hides of leather were sourced from FabScrap to create size adjustable skirts that can fit a range of body sizes and shapes achieved through lacing and grommets.

Attendees of the workship learned to make yarn from unwanted t-shirts and explore what waste can look like in design and art practices as part of an exploration of finding satisfaction and happiness by making use of what we already have on this planet as communities. This format can be scaled and replicated globally as a way to distill waste-based making.


Elizabeth DeWald was in the final year of her high school’s fashion design program when she was challenged to take used men’s dress shirts abandoned at the local dry cleaners as materiality. This confrontation with the wastefulness of the fashion industry created a deep discomfort within her, one that did not allow her to move forward in her career pursuits complicit. In an attempt to divert textiles and other materials from landfill, she works exclusively with waste materials and brings them to the height of fashion, while also reviving narrative significance through introspective examinations of her own personhood and daily life. This past year, Elizabeth was named a CFDA x Coach Circular Design Scholar for her project, "The Mundane", and was nominated for the Windgate-Lamar Craft Fellowship.