Built for a cause

Painted pieces of window screen and wall covering will become decoration for a dress made of home building material for the Rochester Area Builders fundraiser.

Furnace filters, blinds, pipe fasteners, window screens, metal, paint and glass — just what modern, fashion-forward clothing is made of, right?

At least that will be the case on April 24, when more than dozen models glide down the runway at the Rochester Area Builders' 2014 Studs, Struts and Stilettos benefit for Rochester Area Habitat for Humanity.

The benefit features clothing made from construction materials. Design teams, working weeks in advance, are keeping their work classified until the big night, when their work is judged in categories including most wearable, best use of construction materials, best use of recycled materials, "bling" factor and best of show. There also will be a people's choice award.

"From the pictures I've seen of the designs and the process, it's really going to be cool," said John Eischen, Rochester Area Builders executive director. "I think it's something people are going to be talking about afterwards, and I hope they do because we want this to be an annual event."

Similar shows have been held in other cities. Eischen mentioned the idea to Karen Blissenbach, of Design Studio B, a Rochester interior design company, after he had learned of one such show, held by the Minnesota River Builders Association, in Mankato.


Blissenbach, Eischen and others went to see the show. Blissenbach was inspired to serve as chairwoman of the Rochester event.

She's also a contestant and said a fashion design in this kind of contest is "more successful the more raw material you have" in it.

Thus, a window screen and other materials — clasps, a puncher, wire and chains — are featured prominently in Blissenbach's team's design, titled "You Can Call Me Queen Bee."

"We have some idea of how we're going to make it work," she said.

Her team found ideas on Pinterest, in fashion magazines and through an image search on Google.

They'll compete among 13 other teams in the show, where models will display the fashions while pictures from each team's design process are shown on a big screen.

Judges include Robin Wolfram of KTTC-TV, Heidi Mestad of Mayo Clinic, Gregory Stavrou of Rochester Civic Theatre, and Megan Kennedy of KROC-FM (and a Post-Bulletin columnist). Mary McGuire, KXLT Fox 47 news anchor, will emcee the show.

Melissa McNallan is a Rochester freelance writer.



If you go

What: Studs, Struts and Stilettos, a benefit for Rochester Area Habitat for Humanity

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton, 150 S. Broadway, Rochester

Tickets: $25 advance, $30 at the door. $50 VIP tickets include preferred seating, VIP access to the cocktail reception, and a signature drink, "The Strutini." Buy advance tickets at

Dress: Cocktail attire recommended


Using painted pieces of window screen, wall covering, and lamp cord and chains Karen Blissenbach and Victoria Lentz start forming ideas for a dress made of home building material for the Rochester Area Builders fundraiser.

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