She took a moment to admire her creation, but couldn’t believe she came up with it. She had put a lot sweat and tears into this, but it was all worth it. She never imagined she would have been able to pull it off. She had simply done it in order to deal with a rather difficult situation. But now that she had acquired this skill, she had set it upon herself to see it through to the very end. And it didn’t matter what she had to do to achieve her goal.
Amber Mills had been going through a rough patch for a while. She became a Marine when she was very young and did a lot of training and fighting in one of the most dangerous jobs there was. Then, she decided to retire and go back to being a civilian in Hurst, Texas. She was excited about spending more time with her loved ones. And everything was okay, for a bit. But she was about to hit several bumps in the road.
Mills had two daughters and a son. They were a handful, but she liked keeping busy. She even tried looking for work. But her hopes were shattered when she started to feel tired and sick. Eventually, her condition got so bad that she went to the doctor. It turns out that she had multiple sclerosis. This would make it impossible for her to work, so instead, she focused on being a full-time mom. This wasn’t an easy adjustment.
“I live with a lot of pain and a lot of uncertainty of what each day will bring,” Mills said. Her diagnosis was difficult to accept. To make things worse, she couldn’t work, which made her feel as though she wasn’t contributing to the household. This was not the kind of lifestyle she was used to living. Before long, she found herself feeling sad and helpless. She even lost interest in the things that made her happy. But then, everything changed.
Mills was online and stumbled on a website called CheapChicWeddings, which is a great tool for future brides looking to have an affordable wedding. Mills didn’t have any wedding plans in the near future, but the website managed to pique her interest. Each year, the site conducted a dress design contest for a wedding. But these weren’t your atypical wedding dresses either. In lieu of fabric, people had to create one using toilet paper.
CheapChicWeddings got together with a toilet paper company and sponsored this wedding dress design contest every year. Participants were responsible for creating a full-size bridal dress made of toilet paper using needle, thread and glue. Most importantly, it had to be wearable. It sounded weird, but Mills was interested in the challenge. She figured this was what was missing in her life. So, she decided to try and make it work.
“I entered the contest because, with the multiple sclerosis and all of the health issues I have, I had become emotionally defeated in life,” Mills said. In 2013, she signed up for the contest, and in the process, took control of her life again. But there was one hitch. She didn’t have a background in fashion design and had certainly never created anything using toilet paper, not even a dress. But that didn’t stop her from giving it a try.
Mills did some research online and decided to turn some toilet paper into a paste in order to make her dress. So, she boiled the toilet paper and used a hand mixer to mix the material with glue. “I blend it just like it’s mashed potatoes,” she said. Once she had the paste ready, she was able to use the toilet paper mix in various ways to design the perfect wedding dress. She even drew inspiration from “Alice in Wonderland.” But she wasn’t sure if the judges would like it.
It took Mills three months to complete the dress. That was a lot longer than the other contestants, but her condition prevented her from doing it quicker. In the end, she persevered and sent the judges her finished masterpiece. The contest had more than a thousand entries so she wasn’t sure if her dress could beat the competition. Most contestants had been doing this for years, plus they had design experience. Then, the judges made their decision.
Mills had created the dress because she needed to challenge herself, but she never expected to win the contest. Imagine her surprise when she learned that her dress was in the top 10. Unfortunately, she didn’t win the cash prize, but she was very proud of herself. “I wanted to push myself and see what I pull out,” she explained. She did it. But she still had a lot of energy left in her to continue.
The following year, Mills entered the contest again. This time, she decided to do something extra special. She used old Hollywood glamour as inspiration and created a trumpet style dress. But she had a better idea too. She went on eBay and looked for vintage Charmin toilet paper in green and blue. She called her creation “Something Blue.” And her finished product was spectacular!
“My veil was the hardest part by far. It took weeks!” Mills said. “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.” The dressed looked real and amazing. And once it was judged, she realized that all her hard work was worth it.
Mills made it as a top 10 finalists once again. She was even flown to New York for the runway show and judging. She ended up in third place and received $2,500. Grateful for the money, she announced she was going to use it to buy a new handbag and pay some overdue bills. Best of all, her brain was already working on a brand-new design for the following year.
In 2015, Mills bought a bunch of pink Charmin toilet paper rolls. Since color worked so well the last time, she figured she’d try again. She designed a strapless gown with a ruffled skirt, a train, and an open back. But the real wow factor was the detailed lace pieces she created using a stencil. This made the bridal dress ten times more romantic. “This could be my year for $10,000,” she said. But would the judges end up liking it?
Unfortunately, Mill’s dress was not part of the top 10. And while winning would have been awesome, that wasn’t the reason she joined the contest. As weird as it might sound to some, making dresses using toilet paper gave her a purpose in life and it made her feel elated when she was down. She felt like she accomplished something and now thankfully looks forward to each day.