New York City might have the Met Gala, where Hollywood celebrities don unorthodox getups, but Topsham has the Mid-coast Altered Couture Contest — a fashion show giving designers a chance to promote creative recycling, philanthropy and acceptance.

Christine DeTroy Jr. of Topsham, who founded the contest in 2011, said she is excited to bring the show back after a three-year hiatus due to COVID-19. She said the original idea for the contest came from watching several hours of the reality show “Project Runway.” Put off by the show’s “mean-spirited” judging, she decided to create her own fashion competition focusing on inclusion, kindness and fun, she said.

The show will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. Friday, June 9, at Topsham Fairgrounds Event Center, with doors opening at 5 p.m.

Altered Couture brings together youth and adult designers to create garments using recycled and upcycled materials based on a broad theme, which they present to a live audience and panel of judges. Winners will receive gift certificates from local businesses.

Maria Castellano-Usery wearing “Beatles Couture” from a past show. Susan Perrine photo

Proceeds will benefit Brunswick nonprofit Art Van, whose mission is to provide strength-based art therapy to youth living in underserved communities. The van travels to neighborhoods, helping children and adults manage emotional expression through immersive art in a safe environment, according to its website.

This year’s philanthropic contest will feature designers aged 8-70 and their creations based on the theme “Artist Couture,” asking designers to make outfits parallel to the work of famous painters like Picasso or musicians like Lady Gaga, to name a few.


Contestant Maria Castellano-Usery said this is her seventh year participating in the show and she has chosen Van Gough’s famous painting “Sunflowers” as her inspiration.

“I love that Altered Couture is art for art’s sake. I love the inclusivity of it. I love how supportive everyone is,” Castellano-Usery said. “Backstage, people are helping each other to get ready, they’re calming each other’s nerves, and they’re cheering each other on. It’s not competitive; it’s celebratory. It’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone.”

Repeat contestant Susan Perrine said her muse is a New England poet.

Susie Stephenson wearing “Masquerade Couture” from a past show. Susan Perrine photo

“This year, I am inspired by Edward Gorey, an artist, poet and author who lived in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts. He also collaborated with animators to create the title sequences for PBS Mystery Theatre,” she said.

DeTroy said Altered Couture is important to the community because art has the ability to nurture and heal.

“This small but spirited event is a wonderful way to bring the community together; the designers and their teams share talents and creativity, the donors who want to support them, and the audience who attends and celebrates,” DeTroy said. “The additional focus of proceeds benefiting art youth programs is an integral part of Mid-coast Altered Couture. For young people to have an opportunity to explore art and have it accessible regardless of income or environment benefits us all.”

Tickets are available for $20 online or at the door.

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