Donna Vincler took the phrase “Go big, be daring, be bold” to heart when she created the Top Hat, TP, and Tails wedding gown for the 11th annual Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest sponsored by Cheap-Chic-Weddings. Hers was selected from 1,500 entries as the winning design, with a $10,000 prize, and today we discover just how one can convert 22 rolls of toilet paper into a winning piece of artwork. Welcome, Donna!
Have you always called Middle Tennessee home?
No, I have lived in several states. I was born in Texas, but spent most of my childhood in New Orleans. My family moved to Mississippi when I graduated from high school, and that is where my family still resides. I did spend a few years in the Los Angeles area, but eventually moved to Nashville in 1993, founded the Brentwood Dance Academy in 1995, and have called Brentwood home the last 15 years. My husband, Mark, and I love it here.
Do you have any formal design training?
Art classes were always a part of my middle school and high school electives. I enjoyed all types of art from drawing to pottery and designing silver jewelry, but most of my sewing and design knowledge comes from my mother. She taught me to sew at a young age, and I have always enjoyed watching her design and create clothing for me and others. My mother made evening gowns, talent competition costumes and swimsuits for me and other girls competing in the Miss America Pageant system for many years, so our home always had a project in the works. My career in the dance business provides many opportunities to use my sewing and crafting talents on costumes, props and sets, but my fondest designs were pieces that I made for my daughter.
What inspired the design of the dress?
I read a news release last summer about the winner of the 10th annual Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest sponsored by Cheap-Chic-Weddings, and I thought that it sounded like something that I would like to do. I just love anything that is creative, and making something out of toilet paper would be a new challenge for me. When this year’s contest was announced, the phrase “Go big, be daring, be bold” was the advice given to designers interested in submitting wedding gowns. At first, I started sketching a big, beautiful wedding gown, but soon decided I had to think outside the box … a beautiful design also needed to be original and creative. I then started sketching a dress with structure instead of froufrou. I wanted to design a dress for the confident woman who wanted to make a statement on her special day.
The New York finals location was perfect for my tuxedo wedding dress. It has a versatile design with two looks. The tuxedo halter jacket and train can be removed after the wedding ceremony to showcase a slender elegant gown with petaling on the bust line and a cummerbund accent for the reception. I call the design, “Top Hat, TP and Tails” after the Fred Astaire movie Top Hat that featured the classic song, ‘Top Hat, White Tie and Tails’.
My mom and I had daily long distance phone calls about all the challenges the toilet paper was presenting. She came for a visit twice during the construction process. The gown was made to fit my daughter Aubrey’s measurements with the hope that when she came home to Tennessee in March, a photo shoot would take place and I could submit the photos in the contest. The dress fit perfectly when she arrived, and John Hillin, the photographer, selected The Gulch for an urban minimalist photo shoot. Precious memories were made having our three generations involved in this dress. It was actually the most meaningful part of the contest, and I designed a three-petal appliqué used all over the dress to represent the three of us and the bond we have … daughter, mother, grandmother.
How in the world did you get this dress to hold together?
The contest rules state that you can only use Charmin toilet paper (any type), tape and glue (any type), and needle and thread. I actually made the toilet paper into fabric before cutting out my pieces. I sewed much of it together, but once it was fitted, I then backed each piece with tape for strength. You do have to be very careful when handling the toilet paper. If a piece needed to be sturdy and stiff, then I layered the toilet paper by laminating it with spray glue. Most of my dress was sewn together by hand and machine, but some designers use all tape and glue.
How did you create a top hat out of toilet paper?
I layer the toilet paper by using spray glue, white glue and a paper mache technique. The final layer was pin-tucking all around the crown and brim and adding a birdcage veil, hatband adorned with assorted toilet paper flowers, silver bezel pearl buttons and silver leaf sprays. All made with tape, glue, thread and toilet paper.
How many rolls of toilet paper did the dress take?
Surprisingly, it only took 22 rolls of Charmin to make the dress, jacket, hat and bouquet. I used various types of Charmin but mostly Ultra Strong, with only a few rolls of Basic and Ultra Soft.
Do you sew for anyone else in the family?
In the past, I always sewed for my daughter and costumes for the dance studio or church dancers and various children’s musicals. Now that my daughter is grown and living in California, I like to sew for my miniature dachshund. I know it sounds crazy, but he enjoys dressing up. Last Halloween, Andouille “Dewey” won the Pumpkin Festival Costume Contest dressed as a corn dog! He even has his own Instagram account with all his fun creations. His handle is @weeniedew.
What books are currently found on your nightstand or e-reader?
I just started a book entitled What The Dog Knows. It is about the amazing capabilities of scent dogs. I thought it would come in handy since we just got a black lab puppy. Unfortunately, the puppy shredded parts of the book, so I am trying to read through the missing bits and pieces. The other book I have is Behold Your God, a daily devotional workbook that our small group has been studying.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
OK, faith, family and friends would definitely be my top three, so now I will have to add four through six!
I could not live without:
4. My creative time and space. I love doing anything creative and making something out of nothing, whether it is sewing, a craft project, silver jewelry making or remodeling projects with my husband, Mark. He is so sweet and supportive with all my endeavors and actually built a craft and sewing loft for me to get away and dream.
5. My home. I love our home in Brentwood. We have completely remodeled every square inch of it over the years, and each and every project has been a labor of love. My house brings me peace and comfort.
6. My teaching work. I love making a difference in children’s lives and helping them develop through dance and movement. I want to instill in them a love of learning and the confidence and self-esteem needed to pursue their dreams.
Thank you, Donna, for sharing your experience with us today. We can’t wait to see what you create next!
Special thanks to Heather Sisemore for the gorgeous photography! Check out her website, heathersisemore.com.