Prêt à Papier

ph: Rene Stoeltie

I was visiting Hillwood recently (more about that later) and this wonderful exhibit had just opened ~ it opened my eyes to the extravagance and splendor of manipulating paper into life-sized regal clothing.

Isabelle de Borchgrave, a Belgian artist, after a visit to the Met, began thinking about the stunning period clothing she had seen and wondered, "What those would be like if made out of paper?"  She turned her eye towards tromp l'oeil paper costumes.

This painting by Francois Boucher of Madame de Pompadour inspired de Borchgrave's dress depicting the excess of mid 17th C France.






"Crumpled, pleated, and painted, ordinary paper becomes haute couture in the hands of the Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave."



From a distance you cannot tell this is not fabric, beads, trim, pearls, jewels, and lace.  She manipulates the humble material into extraordinary interpretations of costumes from museums around the world.


Floral decoration is Isabelle's trademark.  You can see (in person) the painstaking detail that goes into every piece she creates, and she isn't one to shy away from the heavily embellished or highly stylized dresses.
Robe à la polouaise is an ankle length dress with 3 distinct draped sections operated by a cord pulley system.  Can you imagine?  To further complicate the project, the paper was waxed for a contrasting, see thru effect.  I literally stood there agape for 10 minutes examining every nuance of this gown.






A Mantua dress ~ a T shaped dress worn by the ladies in the court of England.  The intricate bodice and wide hips made this the most challenging dress in the collection


To date she has reinterpreted four collections:

 I Medici ~




Fortuny ~









Ballets Russes ~


ph:Renee Stoeltie

Papiers à la Mode ~ a fresh look at 300 years of fashion.  This is the largest collection.

Poiret, Lanvin, and Redfern inspired these paper dolls and represented a loosening up of the corseted dresses of the previous century.






Some costumes were placed in the rooms at Hillwood.  In some cases, an outfit was inspired by the decor of the room or a painting hanging on the wall, almost as if it jumped off the canvas.




Japanese textiles inspired this robe for Tsar Peter the Great ~


In Isabella's deft hands, Countess Samoilova's dress, lifted from the painting, appears carefree and quite accurate in its depiction.



Some of Isabelle's creations are in permanent exhibitions around the world.  She is often commissioned to create something specific, as in the case of Jackie Kennedy's wedding gown in the Kennedy Memorial in Boston.

ph: Ghislain David de Lossy


She also creates designs for paper products and porcelain for Gien.  You have probably seen her work and not even realized it.

For Target ~




For Caspari ~





To read more about Isabelle, there are several books including Pulp Fashion.

all photos not marked; CLI, except for last 2 courtesy of IsabelledeBorchgrave.com

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