They say if looks could kill, and for local artist Karyn McCullough, it was a look that took out the competition and won the Open Recycled category at the Taranaki Fashion Art Awards.

Karyn's award-winning entry in the awards was also awarded the Runner-Up Supreme title, chosen from a total of 117 entries.

Karyn's creation, titled Dressed To Kill, was made up of just under 3000 shotgun cases, which she has been collecting for more than eight years.

Karyn says she first had the idea for creating a dress out of shotgun cases about 10 years ago, and then started slowly collecting the cases over the next few years.


Friends saved their spent cases for her, while another friend swept the floor at a local pistol club to retrieve 22 cases for her to use to create accessories for the outfit.

With her collection of shotgun cases growing steadily, Karyn started putting serious thought into her plan, and her daughter Melissa offered to be the model.

At the start of 2018, with Melissa in her final year of high school, Karyn realised she was about to lose her model to university and so only had one shot at entering.

Karyn says she thinks she spent around 200 hours on the project from start to finish, which includes time for making adjustments to ensure the weight of the dress and train was as evenly distributed as possible.

The bodice is covered with the metal end of the cases while the skirt features colour-coordinated whole cases attached in rows. The train consists of 938 cases with most of the metal ends removed to lighten the load. Later in the process, when she realised the weight was dragging the dress down too far, Karyn removed two complete rows of 'bullets' and re-hemmed the recycled dress to suit Melissa's height.

A real ammunition belt and a replica rifle complete the outfit along with a bracelet, earrings and necklace also made from bullet cases.

The entire outfit was made from recycled material, right down to a gifted stylish hat and second hand shoes.

Although the dress and train weighed 8kg, Melissa says due to the weight being evenly distributed, it wasn't noticeable. She thoroughly enjoyed the excitement, from the three dress rehearsals to the big night, and revelled in each grand entrance as the dress sounded like bamboo wind chimes with every step she took.