Belgian Artist Creates Elaborate Dresses Out of Simple Sheets of Paper

Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave can use sheets of paper to create incredible garments many designers can’t really make out of fabric.

At first glance, Isabelle de Borchgrave’s creations seems made of expensive materials like silk, pleated cotton and damask, but in reality, her 18th century-inspired garments are made exclusively from paper. The Brussels-based artist painstakingly glues every “seam”, crumples, irons and fluffs paper to make it look like real lace and created buttons out of tiny rolls of paper, ultimately creating designer masterpieces you simply must see to believe they’re real. In her able hands, flimsy pieces of paper can become anything from ribbons to jewelry and feathers, a talent that makes de Borchgrave “unique”, according to French designer Hubert de Givenchy.

Isabelle de Borchgrave began her artistic career as a painter, but started making paper costumes for her children after discovering the versatility of paper. She could tear it, crumble it, paint it, glue it, so she found her transition to paper sculpting natural, while maintaining her identity as a painter. It’s actually her trompe l’oeil style of painting that gives paper clothes their appearance of velvet, silk or satin. In 1994, she met Canadian costume designer, Rita Browne, and they started creating wonderful garments spanning 300 years in fashion history.

But it’s not only her ability to turn paper into clothing items, but also her attention to details, Before starting work on a project, Isabelle does extensive research to avoid any mistakes in fashion history. She and her team turn to a collection of about 4,000 books to find every fashion style in history and make sure they get everything right. Then, with the help of three stylists, the artist tries to create a pattern, and sometimes has to interpret certain designs, such as the backs of dresses, caps, and shoes, which aren’t visible on documents received from museums. After they create a prototype model of the certain dress they’re aiming for, Isabelle paints the paper and, along with her team, starts crumbling, tearing, and folding the paper. Making the dresses, along with accessories like wigs, shoes, bags, jewelry, takes between four and eight weeks.

Isabelle de Borchgrave’s paper garments are made of common pattern paper, but she sometimes uses much thinner paper for lace and other fine materials. Her paints of choice are usually acrylics, but she also uses ink and other types, depending on the desired effect.