Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Paper Cancan Dress

Here is the paper cancan dress I created specifically for the Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries, June 1–September 9, 2012, exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The dress is assembled with some paper tape and 2 1/2 bottles of my favorite Crafter's Pick glue.  Using six different kinds of papers and without using a pattern, the dress took about 2 weeks to complete.  Most of this time was to ensure that the glue was dry before I proceeded to the next steps.  The moisture in the glue made the red paper run sometimes so there were a bit of trial-and-error delays (plus I changed my mind on the design a couple of times).

I am by no means a seamstress or clothing designer so the fact that I didn't use a pattern presented it's challenges.  The hardest part was the construction of the corset.  Instead of just gluing two ends of a sheet of paper together and compressing it into the shape of a corset with force and glue, I assembled it like a real corset would be made.  I cut out nine strips of paper, each a different shape and size, and separated them with the paper "boning".  I finished off the top and bottom with hand stamped detailed ruffles.  All of the edges are neatly completed and they lay flat for comfort and attractiveness.

Originally intended as a two piece for display on a mannequin (more on that fiasco in another post), I ended up having to glue the top and bottom together for display on a hanger.  With a paper/string lace up corset and a grosgrain ribbon at the back of the waist (the only small part that isn't paper) the dress can be worn as a costume on an x-small/small frame.

For display purposes, there are two transparent threads holding the skirts up; but these can be cut off if worn as a costume and the skirt will fall back down into place.  Even though the dress is made of paper, it is actually very sturdy; but need I mention that although it is a wearable garment, it is not a washable garment?...

Up-close, hand applied stamp detail to the paper ruffles.

For information on pricing and purchasing, please contact the museum directly. Below are photos of my products on display.

I also created a wire hanger to go along with the dress (as shown) and the store manager cleverly jazzed it up with a feather boa.


  1. OH MY GOD! I am in AWE! You're amazing. I can't even wrap my head around this. You go girl!

  2. What a great dress - well done!

  3. OH MY!!!! I second Sandy's comment. I am in awe!!! LOVE THIS!! Love to work with paper, but have never attempted something like this. My bloggy neighbor, Anita from Castles Crowns and Cottages, comes up with unreal paper mache creations too. This is surreal, and I love red too, by the way. You're inspiring me to make some tags now. :)
    Continuing to browse, no, not stalk, browse. hee-hee ;)

  4. Wait, wearable? WHAT?!? I thought you were demonstrating a fabric version of it as well. So this is not downscaled? Oh my. Genious!
    Now I really can't wait to see what magical white creation you'll come up with for our party. :)


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