It’s happened to the best of us — we go out on our merry way, blithely forgetting our reusable shopping bags until the moment we check out and realize we need one…thus continually accumulating a very unsustainable collection of reusable totes. But one crafty Hell’s Kitchener managed to truly reduce, reuse and recycle by creating a head-to-toe outfit from the 10th Avenue Target’s bags. 

Alex Ringler’s Target Bag Dress
Alex Ringler’s models his Target bag dress with his boyfriend in a matching jockstrap and harness. Photo supplied

“When the new Target opened, I would go there to pick things up, but inevitably forget my bags, so I just ended up collecting them until I was like, ‘What am I going to do with all of these??’” said Hell’s Kitchen resident turned improvisational designer Alex Ringler.

Ringler, a Broadway and TV/film performer, was struck with sudden inspiration from one of his favorite TV shows. “I’m a big fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race,” said Ringler. “They always make outfits out of unconventional materials. But the idea really crystallized around the Fire Island Invasion” — the yearly 4th of July drag festival and parade from Cherry Grove to the Pines. “I’d known about it for years but never dressed up before. My boyfriend and I decided to do it, and I was like, ‘Maybe I can make a dress out of all these Target bags!’“ he added. 

Alex Ringler’s Target Bag Dress
Alex Ringler’s models his Target bag dress. Photo supplied

First up? Sourcing enough bags to make a dress as well as a matching jockstrap and harness to complete the couple’s couture. While Ringler had quite a few Target bags, “I had never actually constructed a dress before,” he said. “I knew I was going to need way more, especially with the trial and error aspect of it.” He called on his neighbors in a Hell’s Kitchen Buy Nothing group for their stockpiled Target bags. “I had so many people lined up to donate, but I got all I needed from two people,” said Ringler. 

Stocked to the brim with grey and red totes, he went to work with a glue gun and a dream, painstakingly constructing an asymmetrical skirt out of 28 panels and affixing additional materials to a bodice to create his sustainable style. “There’s a little bit of stitching on the jock strap, but the dress is mostly glue with some emergency safety pins,” he added, careful to use all parts of the bag including handles. 

Ringler’s creation was a true bullseye for the unofficial adjudicators of Fire Island — “We got a lot of great comments,” said Ringler of the pair’s ensemble, though his dress did suffer a bit of re-wear and tear. “When I was leaving Cherry Grove, someone stepped on my hem and I had to reinforce it with an emergency safety pin, and by the end of the day some of the hems and the panels had frayed a bit — so it’ll need a bit of reinforcement,” he added. 

For Ringler, who has been busy during the shutdown filming projects like the upcoming Billy Eichner-led Bros and devising his own content — including the festival-selected web series Annoyingly Fit Neighbor — the Target project was a way to unwind amid the near-constant hustle required to be a performer and creator. “I always need some sort of hobby that’s not related to my career – because a lot of my hobbies have turned into a part of my career,” said Ringler. “I try to do little things that won’t be for profit – I feel like I have my best creative ideas for my career while I’m doing other stuff that has nothing to do with it. It’s kind of like the theory of getting your best ideas when you’re watching dishes.”  

Alex Ringler’s Target Bag Dress
Alex Ringler’s Target bag dress in the design stage when he was appealing for extra bags from locals in Hell’s Kitchen. Photo supplied

But if you missed Ringler’s creation on Fire Island and are hoping for a revival, all you have to do is loiter at your local Hell’s Kitchen Target. “I’m going to get dragged up again and go shop at the Target here in the neighborhood and have my boyfriend film me,” said Ringler. And if you have any extra bags…keep an eye out on the local Buy Nothing group – they could be part of next season’s sustainable runway!

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  1. Alex Ringler should get paid by Target for his incredible design and publicity for their store.

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