Shoppers turn dresses into works of art

Mercyhurst senior Marie Schiappa, a Buffalo, NY native, buys a dress at the Hirt Academic Center on Tuesday afternoon.Mercyhurst senior Marie Schiappa, a Buffalo, NY native, buys a dress at the Hirt Academic Center on Tuesday afternoon.

The lower level of Hirt was filled with busy shoppers on Thursday, Jan. 7, and Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Erie and Mercyhurst community members picked dresses, donated by My Father’s House, in exchange for a minimum $10 contribution to benefit Grace House, a program that helps women who are returning from the military adjust to returning to the Erie community.

Mercyhurst College senior Jordan Zangaro, who is currently interning at My Father’s House, helped come up with the concept for this fundraiser as well as bringing it to campus.

“When I came to my internship, my bosses had an idea for a 48-hour challenge, but that didn’t work out. Then they came up with this idea, which I tweaked and changed just a little bit,” Zangaro said.

The idea is that people who bought dresses turn them into works of art by altering them in some way. The dresses will be sold at a silent auction on Monday, Feb. 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Cummings Art Gallery at the event named “Women in Transition: Silent Art Auction.”

Senior Kerri Smith is one of the many participants of the auction. The dress she bought, a “hot pink prom dress with tulle on the bottom,” resembles a dress she saw in a children’s book called “The Rainbow Fish.” Smith is planning to model her alterations on the story.

“I’m planning to spray paint it with glitter and somehow turn it into a fish,” Smith said.

Mercyhurst College graphic design teacher Jodi Staniunas-Hopper said that certain attributes of the dress she purchased inspired her to turn it into a vessel or a basket or a hat. Although she is not sure of the end result, she said she is definitely “going to be taking the dress apart.”

So far, 27 dresses have been sold. Zangaro said she thinks this is a great turnout.

“It is better than I ever expected. I was only expecting to have 10 teams total, and we sold 19 dresses on the first day. I am very excited,” Zangaro said.

Although official selling dates have passed, there are still dresses for those who are interested in participating.

The completed dresses must be returned to Hirt on Feb. 8 and 11 between noon and 3 p.m. They must include the name of all who participated in its making. Set-up for the event will occur on Feb. 14.

If you are interested in buying a dress or want more information on the event, contact Zangaro at