READ(y) to Wear: Making a paper dress

Please welcome Sara Meredith to our blog. Sara created a dress for our benefit, READ(y) to Wear. Here is her story.

Hello, I'm Sara Meredith. I’m a lifetime wisco gal, mom, painter and creative educator with an endless supply of ideas. I’m a dreamer and a doer.

So what's the story behind the dress?

First off, I have always wanted to make a paper dress, and when I was asked if I knew any artists that would be interested in participating I jumped at the chance, especially since this fashion show of paper dresses was in support of the Madison Reading Project whose main goal is to give all children the opportunity to have books they are excited about reading at home.

I put out a call for a model on social media and several people were interested but Alyssa Nicole contacted me directly and I knew she would be a perfect fit ( hah! ) for the dress I was envisioning.

We all know that reading builds a foundation on which all other learning stands, like our skeletons provide the frame to support our bodies. I thought by making a dress that illustrated this metaphor was necessary, plus I'm super big into anatomy and was excited to take on making a bone dress.

Going forward Alyssa provided pieces that already fit her for me to build on top of, AND ensure that we didn't have to do more than one fitting. That made my job so much easier yet I still spent about 10 hours total on the dress and the boots.

Making of the Dress

I added dress pattern paper over the corset using mod podge. The skirt of the dress was made with poster board ( given to me by my Mother-in-law Jan) and covered with Reader's Digest book paper ( a book I had used for another craft project). The skirt was attached to the top of the dress with brads. Because the poster board was rigid enough it was able to roughly mimic a cage skirt without taking away from the rest of the design.

The rib cage/ backbone were designed as a separate piece for ease of wear, taking on and off as well as transport. The ribcage was also made of poster board covered with book paper and folded accordingly. The front ribs are folded back onto themselves and attached with brads. The backbone ribbons were sewn to a larger piece to ensure they would stay and wire was added to the inside of the backbone so the shape would hold. Both the backbone and the front ribcage were attached to a neck piece with velcro sewn in to stay in place. The whole piece was a glorified vest held by the neck. The ribs that attached from the front to the back were also attached with brads.

I spent a a lot of time designing to also ensure that the dress was going to stay put together, be somewhat easy to put on/ take off and be mostly comfortable to wear.

Dress pattern paper was also applied to red pleather boots that were peeling ( also provided by Alyssa) and then painted. The end result was reminiscent of stylish zombie flesh with pumps. I fell in love with the look of the boots so much I decided to save a coat of mine that was also peeling by adding dress pattern paper, adding some black paint to draw out more pattern and adding a slight layer of protection with wax. After wearing it to the event it only needs reinforcement in the elbows and right under the collar. I love it! I am seriously consider making textures on hardwoods and photographing them to make my own fabrics.

All the accessories ( bracelets, earrings, hairpieces) were made by Alyssa.

Hair and makeup Alyssa did herself. It was truly a collaboration and I can't thank Alyssa enough for everything. I can't wait to see how she styles the dress ( ribcage/ backbone) on her own.

READ(y) to Wear Event

The event itself was awesome, seeing all the creativity and variety in dress design was incredible. I got to meet great new people with a passion for helping make a difference. I left feeling empowered and grateful to have been apart of the event. Word on the street is that this will be an annual event, I can't wait for next year!

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