Yes, These Historical Fashions & Haute Couture Are Made Of Hand-Painted Paper.

Paper Couture by Isabelle de Borchgrave

Let me start by saying… what you are looking at is made of paper! Now, that I’ve got your attention, prepare to be amazed at the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave.

Paper Couture by Isabelle de Borchgrave

Paper Couture by Isabelle de Borchgrave

From the Medicis to Marie Antoinette to Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress, Isabelle de Borchgrave has made paper emulate the most incredible fabrics and fashions from all over the world. One has to look twice to realize that the formal gowns, ornate jackets – even shoes – on mannequins are not actually made from velvet, silks and satins.

paper couturehand-painted paper gownsshoes made of paperPaper Couture 2 Isabelle de Borchgrave IIHIH

Sumptuous and detailed, it’s hard to believe they are crafted of hand-painted rag paper. Whether she is recreating an outfit from 16th century paintings or creating one for a modern day ad campaign, the craftsmanship and detail in everything from the shoes to the hairpieces will take your breath away.

paper craftspaper artIsabelle de Borchgrave paper gownsIsabelle de Borchgrave paper couture

Her works include paper recreations of Renaissance costumes of the Medici family, gowns worn by Elizabeth I and Marie-Antoinette, the fashions of Fortuny (known for their pleats) and the designs of grand couturiers Fredrick Worth, Paul Poiret, Christian Dior and Coco Chanel.

Some examples of her Medici fashions:
medici paper dressesmedici paper couturemedici paper couture

Gowns worn by legendary European 15th and 16th century historical figures including Elizabeth I and Marie-Antoinette:
paper couture dresseshistorical costumes made of paper

Fortuny Fashions:
fortuny gowns made of paper 1 fortuny gowns made of paper 2 paper fashions

Jackie Kennedy’s Wedding Dress:
jackie o wedding gown made of paper

A series of dresses realized with suede wall coverings for the Antelope Collection by Arte International in 2010:
dress made of suede wallpaperkraft paper dress
paper fashion

For her present exhibit, Pulp Fashions, at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, she chose four famous paintings from their collection and recreated the fashions within them. Below are two examples:

The Belgian artist is a painter by training, but textile and costume are her muses. Working in collaboration with leading costume historians and young fashion designers, de Borchgrave crafts a world of splendor from the simplest rag paper.

Isabelle de BorchgraveIsabelle de Borchgrave at work

Painting and manipulating the paper, she forms trompe l’oeil masterpieces of elaborate dresses inspired by rich depictions in early European painting or by iconic costumes in museum collections around the world.

The Paper Dress of Eleonora de Toledo, 1522-1562

The Paper Dress of Eleonora de Toledo, 1522-1562 (above) was inspired by a portrait of Bronzino (Gallery of Uffizi, Firenze) and began with a sketch, followed with the hand-painting of the fabric in her studio to yield the final masterpiece:

Paper Dress of Eleonora de Toledo

images and info courtesy of Isabelle de Borchgrave and The Legion of Honor

At present, The Legion of Honor in San Francisco is the first American museum to dedicate an entire exhibition to the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave, although her creations have been widely displayed in Europe.

pulp fashion art of isabelle de borchgrave

Pulp Fashion draws on several themes and presents quintessential examples in the history of costume—from Renaissance finery of the Medici family and gowns worn by Elizabeth I and Marie-Antoinette to the creations of the grand couturiers Frederick Worth, Paul Poiret, Christian Dior, and Coco Chanel. Special attention is given to the creations and studio of Mariano Fortuny, the eccentric early-20th-century artist who is both a major source of inspiration to de Borchgrave and a kindred spirit.

Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave, February 5, 2011 – June 5, 2011

A special thanks to my very hip parents who told me about Isabelle de Borchgrave and her work!