About a week and a half ago, Katrina Chalifoux, of Rockford, Ill, made headlines when her lightly-embossed floral-patterned wedding dress won a major award. In addition to being beautifully designed and expertly crafted, Chalifoux's creation was also constructed entirely out of toilet paper. As the winner of this year's Cheap and Chic Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest, Chalifoux's dress will be put on display at various Ripley's Believe It Or Not museums around the world. Chalifoux, who won second place in the 2007 contest, received a $1,000 prize. .
As amazing as Chalifoux's creation is (and it really is amazing!), one of the most interesting things about this contest is that I'd never heard of it before. While I'm not the most pop-culture savvy person in the world, I generally find out about major internet phenomena within a month or two of their popularity crest. Like many of you, I obsessed over the Shining recut trailer, the Filipino Thriller dancers and dozens of other short-term fads. However, Cheap Chic Weddings' contest flew completely under my radar; in the four years since they started the contest; this is the first that I've heard of them. They haven't shown up in the papers or on the news, and even the internet coverage has been thin to nonexistent.
Admittedly, the toilet paper wedding dresses have become much more sophisticated and, looking over the 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005 contest results, it's clear that Cheap Chic has developed into a very serious contest. Apart from the fact that the cash awards have grown considerably, it's notable that the formatting and writing of the site have advanced over the past few years. Beyond all of this, however, is the fact that Cheap Chic has built a corporate relationship with Charmin toilet tissue and is now working with the Ripley's museum.
While toilet paper wedding dresses aren't likely to take the world by storm, they have certainly found a strong place on the internet and in the public imagination. There's something about the combination of the most worthless thing in existence (apart from Kenny G's entire oevre) combined with the most important, expensive day in most people's lives. Beyond that, the ability of some of Cheap and Chic's contestants to combine thrift and creativity in the development of something truly beautiful is astounding. As we learn to do more with fewer and fewer resources, maybe the Cheap and Chic treatment is pointing the way toward a future that is both stylish and affordable!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's waiting for the Cheap and Chic toilet paper wet t-shirt contest.
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