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She took a step back and stared at her creation, still in disbelief that she had made this. It had taken her a lot of pain, sweat, and tears, but the results spoke for themselves. Never in a million years did she imagine
she could pull off something like this. After all, she had gone into it simply as a way to cope with her situation. But now that she knew what she could do, she was determined to go all the way — whatever it took.
From Marine To Mom
Things hadn’t been looking up for Amber Mills for a long time. She enlisted in the Marines at a pretty young age, and spent years training and fighting in one of the toughest jobs out there. When
she finally decided to leave active duty and return to civilian life in Hurst, Texas, she was looking forward to spending time with her family. And for a while, it was great. But tough times were fast approaching.
Amber had her hands full with two daughters and a son. But she’s always loved staying busy, so she didn’t hesitate to look for a job. However, that lifestyle was short-lived. Amber started feeling sick and tired until it was
serious enough that she had to go see a doctor. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That meant that she wouldn’t be able to work, so she became a full-time mom. It was a bigger adjustment than she imagined.
Amber’s diagnosis was bad enough on its own. “I live with a lot of pain and a lot of uncertainty of what each day will bring,” she explained. On top of that, her inability to work made her feel like she wasn’t
doing and contributing enough — which was a stark contrast to the way she was used to living her life. Soon she started feeling downcast and listless, and found that she was losing interest in everything. But one day, that all changed.
An Intriguing Contest
One day, Amber was surfing the web when she came across a website called CheapChicWeddings. It’s a great resource for brides-to-be who are looking to have a beautiful wedding without breaking the bank. Amber didn’t have a wedding
on the horizon, but something in that website caught her eye. Every year, the website hosted a wedding dress design contest. But these were not your run-of-the-mill bridal dresses. They were all made out of toilet paper.
Toilet Paper Creations
Every year, CheapChicWeddings partnered with a toilet paper company to sponsor a wedding dress design contest. Participants had to create a full-size, entirely wearable bridal dress using only toilet paper, glue, needle, and thread. It was unusual, to say
the least. But for some reason, it got Amber’s attention. Perhaps that was the kind of challenge she needed to come out of the lull that her life had become. And so she decided to give it a go.
“I entered the contest because, with the multiple sclerosis and all of the health issues I have, I had become emotionally defeated in life,” says Amber. So she decided to retake the reins of her life and signed up for
the contest in 2013. But there was only one problem: she had no fashion design experience and – obviously – had never made anything out of toilet paper, let alone a dress. Still, she didn’t let that hold her back.
Amber did a lot of online research and finally decided to make her dress by turning the toilet paper into a paste. She did that by boiling the toilet paper and mixing it with glue using a hand mixer. “I blend it just like
it’s mashed potatoes,” she explains. The resulting paste allowed her to manipulate the toilet paper in different ways to create the wedding dress. For the design, her inspiration was Alice in Wonderland. But she had no idea how it would fare with the judges.
Due to her condition, it took Amber three months to finish her dress — longer than it takes most contestants. But she pushed through and sent the final product to be judged. With more than a thousand
entries, she had no idea how well her design would fare against all the others. Many of the contestants had participated several years in a row, and some already had design experience. Then the verdict came in.
A Personal Victory
Amber wasn’t expecting to win the contest — she had done it for what the challenge had brought to her life. So it was a huge surprise when she got the news that her dress had made the top 10
finalists. Even though she wasn’t awarded a cash prize, it made her extremely proud. “I wanted to push myself and see what I pull out,” she said. And she definitely achieved that. But that didn’t mean she was done.
Back In The Ring
Amber decided to enter the contest again the following year. But this time, she was going the extra mile. Inspired by old Hollywood glamour, she decided to create a trumpet style dress. And she
had something else in mind. She scoured eBay to find vintage Charmin toilet paper rolls in blue and green. She called the dress “Something Blue.” The end result was nothing less than stunning.
Not Taking Any Shortcuts
“My veil was the hardest part by far. It took weeks!” said Amber. “I made a frame out of wooden rods and hand wove the entire thing out of heavy-duty sewing thread. Then I used white Mod Podge hot glue
to make the tiny pearls that I applied one by one with tweezers. I wanted it to look real.” It looked real alright, and when she sent it to be judged she found out her hard work had paid off.
Made It To The Podium
Amber was once again chosen as one of the top 10 finalists and flown to New York for the runway show and final judging. In the end, she won third place and was awarded $2,500. Elated, she
said she was going to use the money to pay some overdue bills and treat herself to a new handbag. And in her head, she was already planning what she was going to design the next year.
Third Time’s A Charm?
For the 2015 contest, Amber decided to go with color again and this time bought pink Charmin toilet rolls. She created a strapless gown with an open back and a ruffled skirt and train. But that wasn’t the
most impressive part. Using a stencil, she created beautifully detailed lace pieces that gave the dress that romantic look that every bride looks for. “This could be my year for $10,000,” she said. But what did the judges think?
Nonetheless A Winner
Sadly for Amber, her dress didn’t make the top 10 finalists that year. And although winning would have been great, that wasn’t why she entered the contest. Creating those dresses out of toilet
paper, as silly as it may seem, gave her a sense of purpose and something to look forward to. It made her feel productive again and now she welcomes each day with excitement.