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Des Moines student turns Hy-Vee grocery bags into haute couture

A Des Moines high school student transformed used plastic grocery bags into a look fit for the runway — or a stroll through the Hy-Vee aisles.

Charlotte Byers, a senior at Des Moines Roosevelt High School, plans to attend Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. She came up with the idea to turn grocery bags into clothing after learning of the college's scholarship opportunity for incoming students who enter creative fashion ideas.

"I didn't see anyone making actual clothes with it, so I thought it would be a good idea to use old grocery bags and crochet a whole outfit with it," Byers said.

Byers, who said she's made garments out of traditional material with her grandmother since she was young, hopes to pursue fashion and clothing design. She's studied the industry at Central Campus and has interned at the Des Moines Metro Opera costume shop.

She's also built up a large following on Instagram and TikTok, where she shows off her redesigned dolls with customized outfits and makeup.

Byers started the grocery bag project on Christmas Eve and worked for over a month — sometimes 8 hours a day — to turn about 300 bags into something wearable. She cut them into strips and tied them together to make a big ball of plastic yarn, then crocheted everything together using a modified vintage 1970s pattern.

The geometric white dress has hints of red, green and yellow from the bags, while the long, flowing coat has flecks of blue, red trim, a large hood and pockets where the original material is more intact.

"When I tried it on, when it was all done, I was blown away," Byers said.

People both in real life and online have taken notice, calling the outfit unique and innovative. She's only worn the ensemble to Hy-Vee so far. Byers expects to hear back about whether she wins the scholarship in mid-March.

Chris Higgins covers the eastern suburbs for the Register. Reach him at or 515-423-5146 and follow him on Twitter @chris_higgins_.

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