Top 50 Blogs
for Fashion Sewers

Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and get the Top 50 Best Bloggers for Sewing Enthusiasts.

Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave has taken the marriage of art and fashion to the next level with her amazing paper dress creations. At first glance her work looks like intricate ensembles from bygone eras or period costumes from a museum archive, but in fact each piece of “clothing” is crafted entirely out of pattern paper. De Borchgrave, a painter and teacher, was initially inspired to create her paper dresses by a trip to a Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1994. Her first collection, Papiers à la Mode, was de Borchgrave’s take on the history of fashion with inspiration ranging from Marie Antoinette and Turkish sultans to pieces from Chanel and Dior.

English Sporting Costume, 1998

Paper costume based on Elizabeth I, 2001

Paper costume based on Joanna of Austria, 2006

For later projects de Borchgrave focused on the grandeur of the Medici of the Florentine Renaissance, the designs of Spanish couturier Mariano Fortuny and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Using simple paper and a deft hand, de Borchgrave is able to bring ideas, time periods and paintings to life with her three-dimensional works of art.

de Borchgrave and her assistants bringing Elenora of Toledo to life, 2006

Paper costumes inspired by Isabelle de Médicis, 2007

Paper costume based on Maria de Medici

Paper costume based on Marie de Medici

Paper costume based on the designs of Mariano Fortuny, 2007

Museums like the High in Atlanta, Georgia and the Tsarskoye Selo Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia have commissioned pieces from de Borchgrave based on historical figures like Marie Antoinette and Elizabeth Petrovna. Most recently she was asked by the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco to use paintings from their extensive European collection as the basis for new works, bringing to life figures from paintings by the likes of Massimo Stanzione and Van Dyke. The Legion museum also recently wrapped their Pulp Fashion exhibit dedicated to de Borchgrave’s entire body of work which was the artist’s first retrospective in the US.

Left: Paper costume of Abbot of Stavelot for the Abbey of Stavelot in Belgium. Right: Paper dress based on painting of Queen Polyxene of Assie by van Meytens, 2007

Paper recreation of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress commissioned by the Kennedy Library in Boston

Flora, 2006 – based on Botticelli’s Primavera

Paper costume based on portrait of Empress Eugénie by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 2001

Paper costume based on Massimo Stanzione’s Neapolitan Woman. Created for Legion of Honor Museum, 2010

Although de Borchgrave is best known for her paper recreations of historical fashions, she has also established herself in the world of product design through her collaborations with Target, Caspari and Villeroy & Boch, and modern fashion design with her Haute Couture collection and wedding dress creations.

Antelope Collection created using suede wallpaper coverings by Arte International, 2010

Left: Wedding dress created for Petits Riens charity fashion show, 2005. Right: Paper wedding dress and veil

Each dress takes roughly 3-5 weeks to create and begins with de Borchgrave and her assistants painting endless rolls of pattern paper at her studio in Brussels. She says working with paper is liberating and that she can recreate the look of almost any fabric including cotton, linen and silk with the humble material. De Borchgrave’s work is nothing less than inspired and inspiring and a testament to the amazing things you can do with everyday materials and some serious imagination.

Photos courtesy of the Legion of Honor museum, Isabelle de Borchgrave and John About Town.


  • Missing

    Dec 8, 2011, 05.44 PMby Tokie Ang

    believe it or not!! they r from paper!! :D

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Oct 25, 2011, 01.11 PMby loulourosa

    this is soooo beautifull, and she lives in my country, wow! I have never seen this, or heard of this artist!

  • 92cd25dc284be6fb79ac877f7a8198581d9e0269_large

    Oct 17, 2011, 04.08 AMby macapili

    Wonderful !!! … thanks for show me this art, this is the first time I see something like this … thanks again.

  • Bulgaria_and_france_burgundy_2012_101_large

    Oct 16, 2011, 01.18 AMby schnui

    Thank-you for sharing this story with us on Burda Style. I am so in awe of this beautiful craft and the stunning reproduction of these beautiful clothes from the past.

  • Dscn0826_large

    Oct 15, 2011, 08.45 AMby ruthw

    Her work is stunning, but isn’t it a kind of art or sculpture really? There is no suggestion that anybody is actually wearing what she makes.

    2 Replies
  • Seida_bacon_pop_stickers_sheet_of_6-p217008747508522130711n_325_large

    Oct 14, 2011, 07.27 PMby Seida Bacon

    Fantastic! And they look life-sized too.

    1 Reply
    • Fase_large

      Oct 14, 2011, 07.34 PMby themisslinds

      They are – every one of her pieces look just like a garment in scale.

  • Missing

    Oct 14, 2011, 03.34 PMby caribbelle

    I’m stunned speechless so good thing that I’m typing lol. These designs are so beautifully meticulous that their accuracy is spot on. The assembly must be one hell of a job!

  • Monjio-1_large

    Oct 14, 2011, 12.00 PMby Monjio

    Wonderful! Thank you for such a wonderful article- Talk about a “True” artist! Everyone should know about this amazing work!!

  • Naburdaprofil_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 09.34 PMby janul

    Amazing! I wouldn´t have guessed it´s made from paper… looks so perfect.

  • 4343a36d4466c6f353525bdc97ba571be3128723_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 08.20 PMby thecuriouskiwi

    Simply stunning, I would love to see these in real life.

    I think Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress recreation is my favourite but they are all incredibly beautiful! I’m sure if the title hadn’t given it away very few of us would have been able to guess that all these dresses were made of paper. Thanks for sharing BurdaStyle xx

  • 958f82a55d1f911aea11daf7f2e4e6295bbe805d_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 05.56 PMby bohemiannow

    Stunning! I’m speechless!

  • _mg_5951_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 03.05 PMby ThomasLeeDesigns

    Fantastic!!! Very amazing to look at! I’d love to see them in person someday!!

  • Dsc_0895icelowres_-_copy_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 01.21 PMby melonhead

    OH WOW!! This is absolutely amazing!!

  • C9c58f92ed60d1987d1a711106e37cb70262f08a_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 01.21 PMby anajan

    wow, it’s incredible!

  • Me1_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 11.16 AMby fashionfreek

    I agree with the fellow members, the work is breath taking. Superb..great detail and art.

  • Mee_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 10.47 AMby tejka

    wow, i’m speechless!

  • Dsc09595avatar_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 10.42 AMby Ralf Schmitz

    oh how much i wish, i could do something like that. this is too beautiful for words and i am deeply impressed and amazed by her workingskills. Bravo would be not enough to say to her!

  • Me_av_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 09.05 AMby freakusbzzz

    You’d need a lot of sticky tape!@

  • Babies_and_gummies_068_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 02.51 AMby Emeraldstar

    this is phenomenal!!! i can only imagine geting to that point of artistry in fabric, and she and her team do it on paper. crazy cool!

  • Lady_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 01.15 AMby LadyDanburry

    So incredible. How could anyone get paper to drape?

  • Avatar3_large

    Oct 13, 2011, 12.44 AMby carottesauvage

    Wow, amazing! Great post! On top on being French speaker, I feel I am learning Dutch for a good reason (being a european at heart-yeah down with d euro=think what you want)!x Occupy wall street,threadneedle street and the rest! ARRRse! ( Yeah! Father Ted! am Breton/gaelic to the most) !!!Have a look at great member “Seazoo”;…luv her

  • 185247_683249964502_7103199_35896629_1133237_n_-_3_large

    Oct 12, 2011, 11.00 PMby eghbravo

    These are amazing – gives a new meaning to “fashion is art”! The wedding dress looks like it has unbelievable movement I never would have believed it was made out of paper. Naturally the cynic in me automatically asks “but what happens if it rains?” but then again…that’s totally missing the point isn’t it?!?

  • Burda_style_pic_large

    Oct 12, 2011, 10.32 PMby lauramae

    I was lucky enough to see an exhibit of her work when it came through San Francisco. The work is unbelievable – even up close the pieces look just like fabric – the textures are spot on. And the fact that the artist allows people to walk directly through her installations and get right up next to the clothing is something that impressed me. The only way to really appreciate the work that went into the masterpieces is to get up close and personal, and de Borchgrave allows that to happen. I was amazed that the ropes of pearls and shoes are also formed out of paper – some of the lace ruffs and collars are made out of corrugated cardboard that has been sliced in to super thin pieces (how brilliant is that!).

  • D396ea32db814cafb8c9e19242e4d7aa9e1c7c1a_large

    Oct 12, 2011, 10.02 PMby teamydear

    So amazing!!! How come I never heard of her before…

    • This is a question
  1. Sign in to add a post


  • Editors' Pick
  • Fashion & Trends
  • Backstage Report
  • Power Sessions
  • DIY to Try
  • Ty's Style File
  • Denise's Desk
  • Meg's Magazine Mash Up!
  • Featured Member
  • Competitions
  • Guest Columns
  • Comment to Win
  • Monthly Memo
  • BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern
  • Sewing & Techniques
  • Courses
  • Videos
  • BurdaStyle Magazine US