After leaving the Marines, Amber Mills was struck by depression that could not be lifted. The depression gripped onto her, making it difficult for her to work leaving Amber with excess time on her hands. While scrolling online, Amber came across a competition that peeked her interest and struck the fire of her imagination. With her inspiration ablaze, she grabbed a toilet tissue roll and dropped it in boiling water. The results of her project left the entire internet in amazement.
After her time in the Marines, Mills returned back to Hurst, Texas only to discover that her health was on a sharp decline. After seeing her doctor, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. MS is a disease that attacks the nervous system and is quite serious. As her health continued to be impacted by her diagnosis, Amber was no longer able to continue to work.
Mills, a mother of 3 young children, had more than enough in her day to day to keep her busy. However, she explained to USA Today that her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and her subsequent health issues had made her feel emotionally defeated in life.
After serving years in the military, Mills was used to certainty and knowing what to expect each and every day. Being left in an emotional rut and uncertain about what each day would bring, Mills felt unsure about the blank slate that had become her life. As told to USA Today, Mills said “I live with a lot of pain and a lot of uncertainty of what each day will bring”.
After being depressed and feeling like her life was out of her control, Amber decided that she needed to find something that would challenge her once again. While browsing through the internet back in 2013, Amber came across a contest that reignited her imagination. What could it be that captured her imagination unlike anything else and redefine her life?
The most unlikely product is the thing that changed Amber’s outlook on life. It was toilet tissue! The actual product itself wasn’t the inspiring thing on it’s own but more what could be done with it. With her toilet tissue in one hand and the contest details swirling in the other hand, Amber felt challenged in way she hadn’t since her diagnosis and start of her health issues.
The contest was run by a website called Chea-Chic-Weddings.com. The website has built their name on providing advice to brides to be that want a stunning wedding without spending their lifetime savings in order to do it. The company partnered with the toilet paper giant Charmin to run a one of a kind competition.
The way the contest was set to work is that all the contestants were supposed to make a wedding dress using only a needle, thread, glue, tape, and the star product– the Charmin brand toilet tissue. Mills felt the spark of inspiration and took a roll of toilet tissue and started to boil it.
While the contest can seem straight forward and simple, there was one important stipulation. The wedding dress had to be wearable and hold up with a reasonable amount of movement. By boiling the toilet tissue, Mills was able to create a mushy like substance that she also added glue to. Once the concoction dried, the end result was more durable than plain toilet paper that is typically thin.
Mills took the mixture of boiled toilet tissue and glue and blended using a hand mixer to create a paste like material. With the paste, she was able to create each individual element of the dress. It is no easy process as Mills even said that each piece takes about six hours to complete.
On top of creating a bodice and a skirt out of the paste mixture, Mills also used a stencil to create a detailed lace on the dress. The beautiful detail required hours of tedious work. The way that Mills used the paste to create the beautiful lace detailing is by applying the tissue and glue paste to a stencil along with acetate and then waited for it to dry. She then moved on to embellishments.
It could be her strict military background or her natural go-getter attitude, but Mills has an insatiable need to push herself to the limit and challenge herself as much as possible. While the rules simply states that every contestant needs to use Charmin toilet tissue for their dress entry, Mills decided to take things a step further. She made it her mission to go the extra mile.
Mills was able to track down a vintage, no longer produced, pink Charmin toilet tissue to create her dress. With her creativity bubbling inside, Mills spent months consumed by the project and put every ounce of her creativity into it. The end result was breathtaking and absolutely suitable for a blushing bride to be on a budget.
The end product is almost unbelievable. The dress is a pink and white strapless gown with an open back and curve hugging bodice. The skirt was ruffled down to the knee with a glorious train. It was a mind blowing, no frills dress made totally of Charmin toilet tissue.
Once the dress was completed, Mills entered the dress into the 11th annual Cheap Chic Wedding Dress competition in 2015 which was again sponsored by Charmin. While she was not listed as a finalist, this only goes to show how exceptional all of the entries were, including her own. This was not her first entry into the contest, however.
Inspired by an Alice in Wonderland inspired gown that placed in the top 10 in 2013, Mills decided to enter the contest again in 2014. Mills was able to purchase vintage Charmin toilet tissue rolls that were in colors like blue and green. She spent 3 months boiling, gluing, and sewing the pieces to create a Hollywood glam vintage gown.
Even though Mills was still suffering from her illness and uncertain health which caused her to take a while longer to create the gown in 2014, she was able to complete the Something Blue trumpet gown. Her skill allowed her to win third place out of 1,491 contestants and win a prize of $2,500.
Though it is almost impossible to believe, Mills has no previous design experience before embarking on this journey. Even though she didn’t place in 2015, Mills says it’s not about winning. She is simply thrilled to have found a fun and inspiring hobby that keeps her motivated by keeping her creative side alive.