Friday, July 26, 2013

Crafty ideas: The Paper Dress

I cannot tell you why, but, as a small child, each time I was given a doll, I'd remove its clothing and replace them with one of my own "creations, made from....toilet paper. I suppose I was attracted to this material because it was plentiful, cheap, and it never intimidated me. I could be as boundlessly creative as possible, all in the knowledge that I could rip my "creation" and start all over again.

Throughout my career, I've always been attracted to non-conventional materials for fashion, especially paper. Anyone who was around in the 1960's can tell you about paper dresses. Andy Warhol and his soup can artwork made it famous. The Scott Paper company commercialized it, creating a line of paper party dresses with matching paper plates, cups, tablecloths and napkins. In some European schools (and the Caribbean school), students engage in an exercise whereby they interpret couture clothes in newspaper as a way of learning about shape and volume.

Today, we shut off the sewing machine, store away the pencils and graph paper. Grab whatever paper you have around the house. Today is all about unleashing the creative genius that lies deep within.

Let's start simple. The dress in the first photo is made from.....toilet paper!!! First, I twisted several small wads of toilet paper as tightly as possible then dipped one edge into a  diluted water soluble paint. When dry, carefully unwind each wad and simply place on the doll the way you want and tape in place. Get creative with the direction of each wad.

Tissue paper also provides wonderful texture and is easy to use. You can use it to simulate the type of random permanent pleating seen in Japanese designer clothing. Simply crush or twist the paper and tape to the doll. Voila! It's just that simple.

I also used tissue paper and an old fashioned technique to make snowflakes to create a top layer for another dress made of.....disposable fabric softener sheets. The tissue paper was folded into squares. Clip out tiny geometric shapes, then unfold. I quickly draped the fabric softener sheets into a bubble dress, over which the tissue paper snowflakes are draped. (Incidentally, today some Asian designers are using laser cut fabric in their designs which has the same look.)

And then there was that very special Christmas wrapping paper resembling diamond dust, I fell in love with last year. I tried making a number of different dresses with no luck. The paper wouldn't take glue very well. I tried to sew it, but the shapes were stiff and hard. Finally I realized I had to go with the flow and create something that worked with its properties. The end result was this very architectural dress.

I cut part of it into slivers and chopped up the rest into uneven geometrics. I first taped plastic wrap to the doll's torso, then taped the slivers and ribbons one at a time until I arrived at the desired look.

All of my looks, thus far, are ad hoc designs dictated by the materials. But how about using paper to practice draping or to sharpen the eye to brain to hand coordination?

Search online for ballgowns, bridalwear or Haute Couture formal dresses. Print out the image and place it where you can see it while you are working. Take newspaper in hand and crumple, pleat, slice or crush each morsel as you emulate the shapes in view.

 I chose a dress from Christian Lacroix Fall 2008 Haute Couture collection. We see the top is form fitting and the skirt consists of two tiers of poufs.
For the top, I simply tear the newspaper and tape directly onto the doll. You don't need to worry about seams or patterns. This is simply an exercise to help you see shape. Next, take wads of newspaper and crush them. Add a pouf to each side. Repeat for the back. Then add another pouf on the bottom. Actually, the fabric of the original dress flows down in the front. I've created pleats, instead, to give the feeling of flowing fabric.


Finally, I decided to try my luck at making a coat-dress from the Christian Dior Fall 2008 collection, using....paper toweling. Where do you start? The bodice of course. Here is how I went about it.
 I cut a square of toweling, allowing one edge to fold over into the collar. Repeat on the other side and pin or tape at the back of the neck. Tape also along the side of the doll. Add another square to begin the back bodice.
 Cut out around the armholes. Fit the back to the doll, then clip around the waist. Now take another rectangle which will become the sleeve and pin to the bodice. The sleeve has lots of volume, but the volume falls away from the shoulder. I make a couple pleats, then I tape the sleeve at the bottom.
I cut a small rectangle which I wrap at the wrist for a cuff and tape in place. Now it's time to figure out the skirt. Keep in mind we are working in paper toweling and not a sheer soft fabric, so the shape will be somewhat stiff. Nonetheless, I have analyzed that this is a flared (and not gathered) skirt. I attach the waist to the bodice, then cut my toweling on a diagonal towards the hem. Repeat for the other side. Then add another piece of toweling at the back (attaching it to the waist) and cut it the same degree as the diagonal of the skirt. Though I liked the collar, it is not the collar in the photo. I've taped on a bit more paper to the collar and across the back. Cut to resemble the fullness in the photo. Finally, cut the hem of your skirt. And now that you've succeeded in doing that....you can make it is REAL fabric!!!!!!

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Full sized newspaper draped dresses from students of the Caribbean Academy of Fashion & Design @ UTT.

All text and images: property of © Fashion Doll Stylist. 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.

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