Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Paper dresses by Isabelle de Borchgrave

Panier dress of the Countess Vittoria Elisabetta Alfazio, born Gaelli

For Christmas this year, I received a remarkable book chronicling the work ofIsabelle de Borchgrave called Paper Illusions.

Borchgrave is an artist living and working in Brussels where she creates intricately designed garments using paper. In 1994, she met Canadian costume designer, Rita Browne, and together they concepted a collection of garments called “Papiers a la Mode.” Paper Illusions highlights many of those garments, spanning 300 years in fashion history.

The results of Borchgrave’s talents are truly astonishing. She can create with paper what many designers never fully achieve with fabric. She pleats, hand paints, and manipulates the paper into recreations of designs from fashion greats like the House of Worth, Fortuny, Dior, and Poiret.

“Isabelle is one of a kind; with a single sheet of paper, she creates the most beautiful dresses, the finest costumes, or, simply, a chain of white roses…Whether it becomes a shoe, a hat or a few strings of pearls, [Isabelle plays] with paper as a virtuoso plays an instrument.” – designer Hubert de Givenchy

Here are a few highlights of her work. Check out her website for more information regarding museum exhibits featuring her works, as well as custom-made garments for clients.


Paper House of Worth Dress

Paper House of Worth dress



Paper Fortuny

Paper Fortuny detail



Paper Shoes

Paper shoes



Book Excerpt

Polyxena Christina of Hesse-Rotenburg; dress inspired by a portrait by Meytens (c.1730), in the collections of the Stipinigi Palace, Turin


18th century Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy, in hunting costume



Fortuny Delphos

Foruny “Delphos” dress (c. 1920) with veil and gold leaf necklace



Paper dresses

Left:Waistcoat with Coptic-style stenciling (c. 1915) inspired by a dress in the collections of Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Right: “Delphos” dress (c. 1930)


Anna de Medici

Costume of Anna de’ Medici (1616-1676), inspired by a portrait by Justus Sustermans in the Uffizi Gallery. Florence


necklace detail

Detail of the dress of Isabella de’ Medici (1542-1576), inspired by a portrait by Bronzino in Pitti Palace, Florence


Elanora of Toledo

Left: Costume of Eleanora of Toledo (1522-1562), inspired by a portrait by Bronzino in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Right: Net chignon and pearls of Eleanora of Toledo

Lord Mounstuart and the Countess Roero

Left: Lord Mountstuart and the Countess Roero de Guarente, lady of the court. Right: Detail of the Lord Mountstuart


custom dress

Custom couture dress


paper wedding dress

Custom paper wedding dress with paper veil


Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in


  1. circesmom | | #1

    Wow! These are a far cry from the paper dress I had in the 1960"s!!!

  2. sashacatgrl2 | | #2

    These are incredible! Especially the 18th Century gowns. Making them out of fabric is hard enough, but paper? So beautiful!

  3. User avater
    JamieKMcIntosh | | #3

    Hi Nicole,
    I noticed you are featuring a lot of projects that are based on recycling or repurposing...they are all fanstastic :)
    I thought you might like to take a look at the dresses that I make from plastic and recycled materials, photos are at my online gallery and blog: http://www.twistedtexiles.com.
    Many thanks!

  4. AmyCurrioman | | #4

    Fantastic! I wish I was that talented!

  5. Misdi | | #5

    Truly beautiful, Looks like you have alot of time to create these, pieces. nice

  6. User avater
    Merilyn | | #6

    I wish there were some instructions on how to get started with these creations. Looks like fun and need a lesson on how to get started. Are these all life size or some minatures??

  7. leainroswell | | #7

    These are indeed exquisite! I was also very impressed when on returning home to Atlanta I saw an exhabit by the students from the Atlanta branch of Savannah School of Art and Design in the 'T' terminal of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. They were also dresses, including a bridal gown, made of paper, but in a much more modern interpretation. Many of them were quite breath-taking in their amazing attention to detail and obvious artistic talent. I'd be willing to bet that they were indeed inspired by Isabelle De Borchgrave's fantastic designs, but my suitcase was so heavy I was unable to read the explaination.

  8. bevarmstrong | | #8

    Years ago our local newspaper had a yearly ball for staff and friends, a part of the evening was a competition pitting each section of the paper against the other by creating a ball gown from newspaper. They had to use The Edmonton Journal of course and would watch all year for particularly decorative pages to use in their creations for colour and pattern etc. The end product was worn by a 'model' from the section and they were judged with a winner crowned. It was highly competitive and the creations were amazing - I'm sure The Edmonton Journal in Edmonton, Edmonton Alberta Canada could provide far more information and photos if you are interested! Keep up the great work - I've been sewing for 50 years or so and I still learn something new from every magazine Thanks!! Bev Armstong

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

More From Threads

Discussion Forum

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All