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101 Trashion Barbies

When: Sunday, March 26

Where: Gallery 212 at the Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St.

Time: Hours vary, open daily during center programming.

Admission: $1.


The “Trashion Fashion Runway Show” is at 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday (March 25) at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building, 126 First St. W. Tickets range from $25-$100.

“Dogs on the Catwalk” is at 11 a.m. Sunday, March 26 at the Sonoma Community Center. Admission is free.

The “Trashion Fashion Walking Tour” features two dozen garments on display around Sonoma Plaza and Cornerstone Sonoma businesses through Sunday, March 26. Maps are available.

Proceeds benefits the Sonoma Community Center’s arts and education programs.

For more information, call 707-938-4626 or visit sonomacommunitycenter.org/trashion.

Well-loved and time-worn Barbie dolls are getting a second chance as fashionistas, courtesy of the Sonoma Community Center’s Trashion Fashion Week extravaganza.

The fashion dolls were repurposed from secondhand stores for an exhibition that blends artistry with ecology, a form of 3-D or assemblage art starring the iconic Barbie. Think pint-sized haute couture from recycled goods and Dumpster finds.

Presented in Gallery 212 at the local community center, the “101 Trashion Barbies” display features 101 of the discarded dolls — mostly Barbies, with a few Kens — wearing fashions created from castaway materials.

Bluntly stated, Barbie has gotten trashy.

It’s all for a good cause, though, fun and spirited but with a reminder to recycle, repurpose and reuse items destined for trash cans and landfills.

Kenwood artist Jeanine Briggs proposed the idea after Margaret Hatcher unwittingly mentioned during a committee meeting it might be fun to expand on the already-popular Trashion Fashion Runway Show that’s now in its seventh year.

Hatcher is the community center’s wildly creative special projects manager who oversees the annual fashion show, where models hit the runway wearing dazzling outfits designed from food wrappers, toilet paper tubes, plastic bags, beverage straws and a wide range of rubbish few could envision as fashion statements.

The Barbie exhibition invites those without the time or confidence to create a full-scale outfit for the runway event, which typically sells out to an enthusiastic crowd.

Without preaching, the Trashion Fashion events — including this year’s inaugural fashion show with decked-out dogs on the catwalk — inspire a conversation about ecology.

Briggs is hopeful the Barbie display, also new this year, will share that message in a lighthearted way.

“I don’t want it to be doom and gloom,” she said, “but solutions are out there. Who knows who will come up with something at some point in time?”

Briggs, 71, was a generation ahead of the Barbie doll. Introduced by Mattel in 1958, Barbie was a popular toy for Briggs’ daughter. The artist’s 6-year-old granddaughter also plays with Barbie.

It’s estimated Mattel has sold more than a billion Barbies in 150-plus countries. They aren’t recyclable, Briggs notes, and not every child wants one weathered from years of play or with mangled hair or locks once subjected to haircuts at the unskilled hands of little girls or boys.

Artists and others with a creative spark paid a $25 entry fee to transform a Barbie for the exhibit. Bids open at $25 to purchase one of the dolls.

“Many people embrace the idea of making art out of trash,” said Hatcher. With Barbies standing just under a foot tall, “You can do quick ideas.”

Exhibitors, 60 in all, range from 6-year-old Sullivan Edwards and his big sister, Madeleine, 8, to retirees.

Some are professional artists; others are trying their design skills for the first time.

Agua Caliente resident Justine Filipello, 37, was always tempted to create something for the Trashion Fashion show, but never found enough time. She sells goods at the local farmers market for Paul’s Produce and works as a client coordinator at Sonoma’s homeless shelter.

Designing Barbie couture was an ideal way to test her creativity while supporting the community center, which long has promoted sustainability practices.

For past coverage of the slayings, go here

Her entry, titled “Alien Couture,” features a Barbie Filipello painted lime green and outfitted in a gown made of a jellybean bag and Pellegrino bottled water packaging, with a hoop skirt crafted from a used paper cup. It’s adorned with odds and ends like rubber bands and plastic tabs, stitched together with top-quality dental floss — also used.

“This is trash,” said Filipello, who spent about 3½ hours making her entry.

Retired grade school art teacher Lucy Hamlyn, 70, designed seven entries, all from materials around her house. For one, titled “Goddess of the Deep,” she made a trip to Stinson Beach in Marin to gather seagull feathers to complete the design.

“I didn’t go out and buy anything,” the Boyes Hot Springs artist said.

The challenge, she said, was determining “how I’m going to make trash interesting.”

Her entries range from two detailed goddesses she worked on for several weeks to those with themes like “California Girl,” crafted from a hefty Covered California health-care handbook and “The Closer,” a Barbie cleverly outfitted in netted produce bags and plastic tabs from bread packaging.

A moment indulging in dark chocolate peanut butter cups inspired Hamlyn’s design for a Barbie with ginger-colored hair “that kind of looked like peanut butter.” Hamlyn fashioned a gown from wire-edged ribbon and embellished it with florets folded from the peanut butter cup wrappers.

Hatcher, 62, said the exhibit resonates with generations of women — and men — who grew up playing with Barbies, many in an era before video games and high-tech gadgets.

Hatcher still has her childhood Barbie and the tiny outfits she and her mother made for the doll. While “101 Trashion Barbies” features many dolls in beautiful gowns, like Susan Drake’s made of eggshells and Kaala Stewart’s crafted from cork, there are plenty of exotic designs, including Jim Callahan’s “Barbed Wire Dancer.”

A few reveal Barbie’s breasts, but Hatcher says there’s nothing X-rated about the exhibit.

“We have political, we have pretty and we have just plain old fun,” she said. The topless Barbies are just part of creative costuming.

“We’ve all seen naked Barbies before,” Hatcher said, “so it’s not like anybody’s going to be shocked.”

Contact Towns Correspondent Dianne Reber Hart at sonomatowns@gmail.com.

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