32 Design Inspiration: Paper Dresses

Isabelle de Bochgrave is a Belgian artist who, along with a studio of collaborators, creates life-size costumes made of paper, generally inspired by painted portraits of historical figures such as Madame de Pompadour and Maria de’ Medici. Mere sheets of paper are transformed by paint and trompe l’oeil to recreate the finest of silks, the most delicate of laces, or the richest brocade.


Collage 1.



Fig. 1.


In addition to once creating the costume above, Fig. 1., based on one of Marie Antoinette’s gowns, de Borchgrave also provided the images for a pop-up book on fashion. The images below are of the Court of Marie Antoinette, including, presumably, a pop-up doll of the Queen. The volume is part of the Book Arts Collection in the University of Washington’s Special Collections.


Collage 2.


Prior to the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave, paper dresses enjoyed a brief heyday during the late 1960s. The Scott Paper Company first released their paper dresses in 1966. The dresses were made of Dura-Weave, a flame retardant and water resistant cellulose fabric. Many companies issued their own paper dresses, including Campbell Soup, which released The Souper Dress, a paper dress inspired by the Campbell Soup art of Andy Warhol. There were also paper fashions for men and children. By the end of the 60s, the fad had faded.


The Souper Dress
Fig. 2.


Bibliography of Sources:

“Dare to Tear:  Paper Fashions in the 1960s.” The Costume Society. Accessed June 13, 2019. http://costumesociety.org.uk/blog/post/dare-to-tear-paper-fashions-in-the-1960s

“Paper Dresses:  A Brief 1966 Fashion Fad.” Groovy History. Accessed June 13, 2019. https://groovyhistory.com/paper-dresses-a-brief-1966-fashion-fad


Image Citations:

Collage 1. D’Alessandro, Jill. Pulp Fashion:  The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave. New York:  Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and DelMonico Books, 2011.
de Borchgrave, Isabelle and Rita Brown. Papiers à a Mode. London:  Bellew Publishing, 2000.  
Collage 2. de Borchgrave, Isabelle and Dorothy Twining Globus. Fashion– à la mode:  The Pop-up History of Costumes and Dresses. New York: Universe Publishing, 2000.
Fig. 1. de Borchgrave, Isabelle. Marie Antoinette paper dress. Available from:  http://www.thejewelleryeditor.com/images/marie-antoinette-paper-dress-isabele-de-borchgrave/ (accessed June 10, 2019).
Fig. 2. The Souper Dress. 1966-67. United States, paper. Purchase, Isabel Schults Fund and Martin and Caryl Horwitz and Hearst Corporation Gifts, 1995. Accession Number:1995.178.3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. From: Groovy History. Accessed June 13, 2019. https://groovyhistory.com/paper-dresses-a-brief-1966-fashion-fad. 


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