Pulp Fashion: Bringing a Whole New Meaning to the Term “Paper Dolls”

The artist, Isabelle de Borchgrave, at work on one of her pieces.

Isabelle de Borchgrave brings the fashion of famous paintings to life at the Legion of Honor with her exhibit, Pulp Fashion. At first, I wondered where the “pulp” part came from. Looking online, I failed to notice that all of the dresses that Isabelle created were actually made out of paper!

All the work on the pieces was remarkable. The detail, the texture, and the colors all seemed so realistic that the intricacy of the work displayed was outstanding. My favorite pieces were of the women of the Medici family. A once powerful and influential family of Italian aristocrats, the Medici women certainly embraced a style that showed off the extreme opulence that they possessed.

Isabelle's sketch of Eleanor of Toledo.

It also dawned on me that fashion as it was back then was not only a signifier of personality and identity but also of class. Clothes then were not for functionality—the more uncomfortable or unpractical a dress was showed off the fact that one belonged to a leisure class that could literally afford to sit around all day (since you couldn’t do much else in these dresses) and wear a piece of art.

There was a dress with large panniers on the sides of the dress, a fad among women of the 1700’s simply because it stopped traffic on the streets—literally. A woman wearing this would need extra room to walk, clearing the space around her and drawing attention to herself. At opera houses there were even fights because of how much seating the dresses would occupy. The women embraced the trend not only because of the attention that it brought to themselves, but also because it allowed them to be shown off as works of art, so affluent that the clothes they wore transformed their bodies into artful possessions.

The women of the Medici family.

A few white dresses with wide panniers that Isabelle created.

Eighteenth century costumes for men. All images courtesy of Legion of Honor.

Unfortunately I couldn’t snap many pictures (the security guard caught me despite my furtive attempts using my phone) so be sure to check out the exhibit for yourself and prepare to be wowed!

Danielle Ciappara
BARE Reporter

1 comment:

  1. Isabelle de Borchgrave is an incredible artist. The white pannier dress is impeccable.

    I am awed by the detail of what she does.

    It is astonishing to find what an artist can do with paper. I have been studying modular origami for a few years, without being able to even approach the level of the true artists.

    Thank you, Ms. Ciappara, for bringing de Borchgrave's work to the Internet, along with these effective photographs of her work -- which deserves widespread recognition.