Introduction: DIY Full-sized Dress, Made Entirely Out of Paper!
Dresses make up a major section of a woman’s closet, especially mine. They vary from casual to extremely fancy, but something they all have in common, is that none are made with my own hands, therefore they all lack the everlasting and unbreakable bond.
That is why, as a change, I decided, to make a full-sized dress by myself and not only that, I decided to make the entire thing only out of paper. You may ask, "Why paper?". The reason I chose to make the dress out of paper is because I had a bunch left over from a previous project and it would be something new and unique to try out.
Paper is definitely not the ideal material to be making a dress, it is nothing like cloth, therefore the project was quite challenging. But that was another reason for me to take it up because I enjoy taking up challenges.
As for the skills required to make this project, you need none. When I started off, I had no idea about how dresses are made but by the end I learned a lot.
So follow along to see the whole process from concept to creation. Hope you enjoy and it inspires you to try it out for yourself.
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Step 1: Overview
Like I mentioned, I wanted to create the entire dress out of paper, but paper is relatively stiffer than cloth. So we faced our main problems while trying to make 3 dimensional curved surfaces. Cloth can easily be folded and formed into pretty much any shape you desire, but it wasn’t the case for paper, so we had to come up with templates that have overlapping flaps (explained in more detail later), so that they made the shape that we needed.
Apart from that paper doesn’t have any kind of elasticity, so we had to make the dress in such a way, so that it isn’t too tight or too baggy.
This project, on the whole, is quite challenging but most of the problems that you may encounter are covered in this instructable. And if there is something that we might’ve missed or something is not very clear, drop a question in the comment section below.
Step 2: Concept and Design
We started off by googling and browsing for ideas and inspirations. We searched for various types of dresses, and tried imagining how it would look on me. After a good hour or two of surfing the web, we finalized on a “high-low dress” with a “halter” or “sun-top” neck. This looked the most beautiful to us.
We then made some sketches to better visualize how the final outcome would look like and this gave us a rough idea of how we had to use our paper sheets to achieve the design we wanted. We also created a 3d model of the conceptual dress using Autodesk's free to use and powerful "Maya". (you can download it here, must try for all makers) This gave us a better idea of what we are dealing with and helped visualize the project.
We also decided to make the dress in two parts: The Base and an extra layer with all the decorations, we’ll call it The Decorations Layer. The Base will be made out of a stiffer kind of paper, which will give the entire dress a firm structure to support itself. This will be the basic shape of the dress. On top of the base, we will add all the kinds of decorations (folds, pleats, designs) with a less stiff paper.
Step 3: Gathering the Material
Here is a list of all the materials and tools you will be needing while making this project. Everything used in this project will be easily available at your local paper or stationary stores.
- Stiff chart paper (the color of the paper depends on your choice, in our case we used red) The amount of paper needed is dependent on your size, the exact dimensions are covered in the 5th step.
- Thin paper (color choice depends on you, we used pink and white, this will be used for making the designs and decorations)
- Crepe paper (this is again for the decorations, so it depends on your choice)
- Paper glue
- A pair of scissors
- An x-acto knife
- Transparent tape
Assuming that you already have most of the tools, the total cost of this project will be under 10 USD.
Step 4: Prototyping
Since paper is a valuable resource and it is essentially trees, we decided to try out our design on a small scale first so that we didn’t waste any of it by trying to make a full-scaled model directly.
So we used our sketches and pictures on the internet as a reference to create a small scale model of the dress.
We couldn't use any of the designs that were on the internet because they were all specific to dresses made of cloth, which couldn't be used for paper. Therefore we had to experiment with a trial and error method till we were satisfied with the result.
We wanted our design to be parametric, so that anybody could make one for themselves. So we found relations between faces and lengths (not very important, but we can show the entire process if someone finds it interesting just drop a comment) and came up with equations for the dress dimensions. The equations take as input certain lengths of your body, and returns an output of the templates to make the dress. The parametric templates are attached in the next step.
Step 5: "The Base" : Dimensions and Templates
Like we mentioned while explaining the design, the dress will consist of a firm base for structural strength onto which the decorations will be added. The entire dress is also divided into three sections: bottom, mid and top. The dimensions of the base layer will vary from person to person, this is why we created a parametric template that can be adjusted to fit any body. (Templates can be found attached above)
The dimensions of the templates need to be changed according to your body by plugging in your measurements into the equations. (Equations are attached with the templates).
You will need the following measurements to make the templates:
- Waist (around your stomach) (w)
- Length from your stomach to the ground (H)
- Length from the ground up that'll determine the slope of the slanted design (h)
- Waist-height (Wh)
The top section was rather complex and couldn’t be turned into parametric equations and templates, we will explain in more detail what we did in the step dedicated to the top section (step 8)
Once you've got your measurements, plug them into the equations (attached with the pictures) and trace out the templates that are unique to you.
Step 6: "The Base" : Overview of the Design
In our case, we decided to make the base shade of the dress red, onto which we will have a floral decoration with a lighter creamy pink. The bottom section will have a white layer below to accent the dark pink on top. The pink section of the bottom will also have a cut-out pattern along the bottom edge.
Step 7: "The Base" : Bottom Section
Once you’ve made the templates, grab the one that is for the skirt (labelled as "bottom" in the design). You can then cut it out with a pair of scissors. (this bottom section, in our case had to be made out of 4 pieces of paper glued together) Overlap the two sections (that are on each top corners of the rectangle) that are shaded (use the pictures as a guide) and stick them together with paper glue. A quick suggestion here would be to wear it around your waist and try it out with the overlap before permanently sticking it together. Keep referring to the pictures to avoid mistakes. This is all you need to do for the skirt base.
It is now a good idea to try out the skirt by pulling it over your waist and making sure it fits. If it doesn’t fit, there was probably some error in the making of the templates.
Step 8: "The Base" : Mid Section
Once you've made the skirt, get the template that will be used for the core section (labelled as "mid" in the templates). Once again cut the shape out and before gluing the overlaps together, check it it fits you waist. Once you are sure it fits stick the overlaps together. (refer to pictures)
Now you can join the bottom section to the mid section. The triangular protrusion on the mid section should fit perfectly with the triangular gap in the bottom section. Align them so that there are no gaps and use transparent tape to stick the two together from the inside. It is a good idea to once again try it out by wearing it.
Step 9: "The Base" : Top Section
The making of the top section was relatively harder. It has an approximate template (attached above), but the parameters cannot be determined easily. We finalized our model with some trial and error.
Once the template is made, cut along the lines (don’t cut the dotted line, these are the fold guides). Now fold in a way that the dotted line aligns with the cut line, (use the pictures attached as a reference) and stick the overlap. Do this for both sides. Now join the top section with the bottom and mid-section (make sure to well align the top with the mid-section) and use tape to join the 2 together from the inside. (another good suggestion here would be to temporarily attach the flaps with paperclips and try it out to make sure everything is correct)
Once u permanently attach everything together the base shape of the dress is essentially done, now its time to decorate. It is again a good idea to try out the dress just to make sure everything fits well.
Step 10: Decoration: Floral Design
We decided to have a beautiful floral design on our paper-dress. The flowers were made using "crepe-paper" that seemed to imitate the texture of natural flowers best.
We cut out strips of crepe-paper that we folded into pleats and cut out a petal shape. We then passed thread through the paper weaving in and out and pulled the thread so that the paper folded into a flower shape. We then secured the paper-flower together using glue and as a finishing touch, we added a pearl-like bead to the center of each flower. (refer to pictures)
We made a bunch of these paper-flowers of different sizes and then glued them to the dress. We made sure the design was subtle and yet had an impact.
Step 11: Decoration: Cut-Out Design Along the Hem
As another decoration, we traced out a floral shape along the hem (bottom edge) of the dress, and cut it out with an X-acto knife.
To simplify the process we made a template of the design and repeated it along the border. The template could be as simple or as complex as you wish. We stuck to our floral theme. Once we traced out the entire design we used an X-acto knife to cut out the pattern. Finally we decided to inlay a pink paper below, so that the floral design stood out.
Step 12: Decoration: Making the Neck-Section
Finally we had to make the neck section of the dress, this is what will essentially hold the dress onto you body. We decided to make a beautiful neck-strap using pearl-like beads.
For this you will need some yarn (even regular thread should do) and beads. Measure out a length of yarn so that it's long enough to go around your neck with an inch or two as excess. Next, thread the beads into the yarn until the entire length is complete. Once that's done, secure the two ends with a knot and attach it to the top two edges of the upper section of the dress. (refer to pictures).
Once this is done you are pretty much complete and you should be impatient to try the dress on :)
Step 13: Finishing Touches
As a final finishing touch, we decided to stick pearl-like beads in between the paper flowers and along the cut out design on the hem. This step depends entirely on your choice and your concept. Some ideas could be to stick beads or origami designs but the sky is pretty much the limit!
Once that’s done, you are ready to finally wear it!!
Step 14: Admire!!!
Now that you are satisfied with the decorations, all you have to do is throw it on and admire!!!
This project was a whole lot of fun to make and we hope you enjoyed it too. For more similar projects, make sure to follow our page.
We will be happy to offer any suggestions to those interested in replicating this project. Do drop a comment for feedback or questions in the comments section below.
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