LOWELL, Mass. (AP) — When Jessica Tenczar told her friends she wanted to design a dress made from the bark of a birch tree for their ‘‘nontextile’’ project at school, they said it could not be done.
The bark is too brittle, they told her. But Tenczar, who began sewing at the age of 4 and started using a sewing machine at 10, did not listen. She was up for a challenge.
Tenczar, a Lowell High graduate and current junior at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston (MASSArt), said that when she received the assignment, she was determined to create something that reflected her current place in life.
‘‘I was finally where I wanted to be, getting to do what I wanted to do, and I wanted the dress to reflect that,’’ she said. ‘‘That’s why the dress kind of looks like it’s growing out of the ground.’’
Tenczar said the project was a learning experience that taught her how materials, unconventional as they may be, can wrap around the body.
She said that even though the dresses may appear strange to some, it is important to remember that these dresses are for show and not meant to be worn.
Her dress, which features birch bark scavenged from the woods around Lowell, is on exhibit at Copley Place in Boston through Sept. 27 as part of MASSArt’s Wearable Art exhibit.
The school kicked off the exhibit with a runway show earlier this month in the center of Copley Place. There were dresses made of sponges, water bottles and tea bags, as well as more traditional coats and gowns.
Tenczar’s dress was saved for last, and as it came out, she said that there was an audible ‘‘Wow!’’ from the crowd.
There will be another fashion show at Copley Place on Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. The free event is open to the public.
Although this is the fifth annual exhibit for the school, it is the first time it has been at Copley Place. The events were previously held at the Burlington Mall.
‘‘I'm really thrilled that the exhibit will be in such a beautiful place this year — next to a waterfall, where so many people will be able to see it,’’ said Jayne Avery, an associate professor at MASSArt and curator of the exhibit.
The MASSArt exhibit features 30 designs that were chosen from more than 200 ensembles, including nontextiles, contemporary day-wear, evening-wear and tailored coats.
‘‘My job was not easy. There were so many wonderful ensembles to choose from,’’ said Avery.
Although the images of the nontextile dresses might conjure memories of Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress, Avery said that nothing of that nature is on display.
‘‘Students are not allowed to use materials that rot on their nontextile garments,’’ she said.
Tenczar’s father, former City Councilor Daniel Tenczar, is plenty proud of her work.
‘‘When you think of tree bark, you don’t think of a dress,’’ he said. ‘‘She had a vision, created it, and the birch-bark dress was actually able to be worn. I thought it was gutsy.
‘‘Based on her creativity and willingness to work, I think she will do well in fashion,’’ he added