Instructables
Picture of Sew a Newspaper Dress
This Instructable will teach you how to make a dress out of newspaper using a sewing machine. It makes a great recycled Halloween costume or a very interesting party dress.

This was part of a Halloween costume of The Old Gray Lady, a nickname for the New York Times. (Hence the makeup and hairdo.) It consists of a fitted, pleated bodice, a puffy petticoat, and a removable waistband, all made completely from newspaper and thread, with no glue or tape used in the process. It is surprisingly comfortable and wearable.

To make this dress, you need a stack of newspaper (I used one Sunday edition of the New York Times), a basic sewing machine, basic sewing skills, straight pins, a ruler, 2 feet of velcro, a spool of white thread, a pencil, a pair of scissors, a belt, a mirror, and a friend to help you with a couple of the steps.

This dress should fit around a size medium. It took about 8 hours to fully construct.

See the final step for ideas on how to incorporate this amazing dress into a costume for Halloween!

Note: Please keep this dress away from water and fire as it is made of paper!
 
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Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials
To make this dress, you need:

-a stack of newspaper (I used one Sunday edition of the New York Times)

-2 feet of velcro

-a spool of white thread

-a basic sewing machine (and basic sewing skills)

-straight pins

-a ruler

-a pencil

-a pair of scissors

-a belt

-access to a mirror

-a friend to help you with a couple of the steps

-around 8 hours of time

The dress was designed to fit around a size medium.

Step 3: Keep Pleating

-Flip the paper over. Fold the paper up to meet the original edge (see photo)- this will be a 1/2 inch fold. Crease well.

-Flip the paper over. Fold up a 1 inch fold from the side you have been pleating and crease well.

-Unfold the last fold slightly, and fold up a 1/2 inch fold to meet the edge of the last 1/2 inch fold (see photo).

Step 4: Continue Pleating

-Continue pleating in the same way until you reach the end of the paper.
---Fold a 1" pleat
---Fold a 1/2" pleat on the opposite side to meet the opposite fold
---Fold a 1" pleat on the opposite side
---Fold a 1/2"pleat on the first side to meet the opposite fold
---....repeat until finished

-Use a ruler to keep your pleats straight and even, and be careful not to get confused by the fold at the center of the newspaper.

-Crease each pleat thoroughly.

Step 6: Sew the Pleated Pieces

-Measure to the center of two of the pleated pieces and draw a line in pencil on each (across the pleats).

-Take the other 2 pleated pieces and measure to 1 1/2 inches above the center point, and draw a line in pencil across the pleats.

-Set your sewing machine to Baste (if it has that option). Otherwise, choose the longest stitch length it has (I used 6), and set the thread tension fairly low if you can adjust it (mine was set to around 3).
This will make the stitches easier to rip out if necessary without ruining the paper, and it will be less likely to tear since they are far apart.

-Sew along the pencil line you drew across the pleats. Be sure to keep the pleats folded properly while you're sewing. Remember to backstitch at start and finish. Do this for each of the 4 pleated pieces.

-You may need to fold up the end of the pleated piece before you start sewing to fit it through your sewing machine.

Step 8: Sew the back bodice pieces to the front

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-Take one of your pleated pieces with the off-center stitching. This will be one of the back bodice pieces.

-Line the piece up alongside your front bodice (the center-stitched pieces), aligning the stitching but not the top and bottom of the paper. (see photo)

-Overlap the pieces by 1/2 inch.

-Carefully sew the back bodice piece to the front bodice along the center of the overlap, 1/4 inch from the edge of the piece. Remember to backstitch at start and finish.

-Repeat this step for the other back bodice (off-center stitched) piece. Make sure that the back bodice pieces are at the same height and not reversed (see photo)- they should be aligned with each other but not with the front bodice piece (center). Sew the other back bodice piece to the front bodice, but do not sew the two back bodice pieces to each other.

Step 9: Trying on the Bodice

-For this step, you need to be wearing thin clothing or your underwear for proper fitting.

-Wrap the bodice around your body with the center in front, and flipped so that the back bodice pieces are lower than the front bodice on your torso.

-Carefully wrap a belt around your waist and fasten it to hold the bodice pieces in place.

-The center stitching should be somewhere around your natural waist, the narrowest part of your torso. Use the belt and tighten it if necessary to get the bodice in the right place.

Step 10: Fitting the Bodice

-Press the pleats down across your chest so that they lie close to your body.

-The pleats should be pulling apart across your wider parts, and at the neckline they should come together again and possibly overlap a bit.

-Use straight pins generously to hold the pleats in place. Be careful not to pin yourself or pin the newspaper to your clothing. You may want to stand in front of a mirror while you do this.

-Keep pinning the neckline until the pins are holding the pleats close against your body at the top of the dress.

-Use a pencil to draw a pretty neckline along the top of the dress. (see photos) Use a mirror to see what you're doing.

Step 11: Sew the Neckline

-Sew along the neckline of the front bodice 1/4 inch from the top of the dress. Careful not to stitch directly into pins. You can remove the pins as you go- be careful not to forget any. Backstitch at start and finish.

-Retrace over your neckline in pencil, making it even and symmetrical.

-Sew along the neckline again, this time sewing 1/4 inch below the pencil line you drew. Backstitch at start and finish.

-Carefully cut along the pencil line, making sure not to cut through the last line of stitching you did.

-Sew again along the neckline at 1/4 inch from the top, and at 1/8 inch from the top, to make sure the pleats are held together.

Step 12: Make the Armholes

-Put the dress bodice on again using a belt to hold it in place, just like you did in Step 9.

-Space the pleats out slightly along your side so that the dress fits well.

-Draw a line where the armhole cutout should be. You might ask a friend to help you with this step. Do this for both sides of the dress.

-Take the dress off. Space the pleats out slightly as shown in the photo. Sew 1/4 inch from the edge to keep the pleats spaced out like this, backstitching at start and finish. Your seam should go from the edge of the front bodice piece to the end of each back bodice piece.

-Tidy up your armhole lines, then sew another seam 1/4 inch below the line. Carefully cut out the armhole, being careful not to cut through this second line of stitching. Do this for both sides of the dress.

-Try the bodice on and double check the fit of the armholes. If you need to make adjustments, draw a new line, then sew 1/4 inch below it, then cut, never cutting through the bottom line of stitching.

-When you've got the armholes so they fit, sew a few more times below the cut to reinforce it and make sure the pleats stay as you've spaced them.



Step 13: Add the Velcro Closure

-Cut a piece of velcro about 15 inches long.

-Take the soft side of the velcro and sew it just at the edge of the inside surface of the right back bodice piece. Line up the top of the velcro with the top of the bodice. It won't reach all the way to the bottom of the bodice.

-Put on the dress bodice again. Have a friend pull the bodice closed in back so that it feels like it fits snugly but comfortably.

-Have your friend draw a line with a pencil along the edge of the back dress opening.

-Place the scratchy side of the velcro to the right of the line your friend drew and sew it in place.

Step 14: Sew a second waist seam

-Measure 3 1/2 inches up from the original waist seam you sewed on the pleated pieces.

-Sew a seam around the entire dress that is 3 1/2 inches above the original waist seam.

-Make sure the pleats are completely flat and folded where you sew this seam.

-This seam will be at around the height of an empire waist, whereas the other waist seam is near your natural waistline. It will help to shape the dress in a more flattering way.

Step 16: Make the Straps

-Take 3 sheets of newsprint and stack them on top of each other.

-Fold up the edge 1 inch and crease.

-Fold this edge over again and crease it.

-Fold it up 3 more times, creasing each time.

-Cut this folded piece off from the rest of the newspaper sheet.

-Make a second folded piece just like this one.

-Sew each of these strap pieces 1/4 inch from the edge of the fold along either side, and down the middle as well.

Step 17: Attach the Straps

-Pin the straps to the edges of the front bodice piece. Careful not to pin yourself or your clothing.

-Have a friend pull the straps over your shoulders to the edge of the armholes on the back of the bodice. Adjust the straps to a comfortable tension and ask your friend to mark with a pencil on the strap a line at the height of the top of the back bodice.

-Sew the straps to the dress at the front and the back. The straps should be inside the dress bodice. Use several lines of stitching to reinforce it.

-Trim the excess length from the straps.

-Congratulations! You finished the dress bodice. The rest is easy!

Step 18: Make the Petticoat

This portion of the dress is much easier than the bodice.

-Stack 3 sheets of newsprint on top of each other.

-Scrunch up the narrower end as you sew 1/4 inch from the edge of the piece. The seam will hold the scrunching in place. Scrunch it a lot of greater volume in the petticoat.

-Gently crumple up the top 2 layers of the panel with your hands to give them volume.

-Repeat this 6 or so times so that you have many scrunched panels of newsprint.

-Sew the bottoms of the 3 layers of 2 panels together.

-Sew these pieces together at the top (scrunched part), overlapping by 1/2 inch.

-Repeat until all of the pieces are attached, but do not sew them into a complete circle.

-Cut a 3 inch piece of velcro.

-Put the skirt around your waist and mark the edge where it meets. Sew in a velcro closure at the edge of one piece and along the line you drew on the other side so that the skirt closes.

The petticoat is finished! You can adjust and re-crumple as necessary until it poufs appropriately.

Step 19: Make the Waistband

-Start with 2 stacks of newsprint with 2 sheets each. These can be the half-width pages left over from various sections.

-Try to pick a side that has a contrasting color from the rest of your dress. My dress was light grey, and I picked a dark black image to contrast.

-Set the side you want to be the outside of the waistband face down.

-Overlap the 2 stacks by 6 inches on the shorter side.

-Sew a seam 1/4 inch from the edge of each piece (so, two seams total).

-With the outside of the waistband face down, fold up 3 1/2 inches from the long side and crease well. Use a ruler to make sure it is straight and even.

-Keep folding over neatly 3 more times, creasing each time.

-Trim the excess newsprint along the edge of the folded part, just like you did with the strap.

-Sew along the 2 long folded edges 1/4 inch from the fold.

-Attach a 3 1/2 inch strip of the soft side of the velcro along one edge.

-Put on the dress bodice with the help of a friend, then wrap the waistband around your waist. Have your friend mark where the velcro edge meets the rest of the waistband.

-Take off the dress. Sew the scratchy side of the velcro along the line your friend drew.

-Trim the excess length from the waistband.

Step 20: You're Finished!

Picture of You're Finished!
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Congratulations, you have made an amazing dress completely out of newspaper!

To wear the dress, first put on the petticoat. Then, have a friend help you fasten the bodice over the petticoat. Lastly, put on the waistband over the bodice.

This dress can be just worn as a very interesting party dress, or can be incorporated into a number of different costumes.

Some ideas:

--The Old Gray Lady
    -A nickname for the New York Times, this makes a perfect outfit for going as the New York Times personified. Do spooky gray makeup and weird gray hair.

--The Death of the Newspaper
   -Do zombie makeup and make a nametag of a recently discontinued newspaper and go as a newspaper come back from the dead.

--The Recycling Fairy
   -Add some wings and some glittery makeup and you are the perfect eco-fairy.

--A Project Runway contestant
   -Pretend you're wearing your fashionable Newspaper outfit from this season's Project Runway.

--As the basis for any costume that requires a fancy dress. Add some paint and sequins and you could be an awesome, recycled rendition of any princess or queen.


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t.o.cait1 year ago
My boyfriend decided to build a suit of armour for Halloween so I decided to make a paper bag dress! I used your instructions and made the dress out of leaf bags from the hardware store. They're double-walled so it was very sturdy. I don't have a sewing machine so the dress is held together with duct and packing tape. I also made paper earrings and a crown and covered an old clutch in paper! It would never have turned out this well without your instructions. Thanks so much!!
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prixprix (author)  t.o.cait1 year ago
That looks awesome!
prixprix (author) 1 year ago
Someone who made the dress wore it to a newspaper museum and made the Washington Post! Sadly doesn't credit the instructable anywhere, but it is awesome to see all of you rocking the dress design out in the world!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/arts-post/post/northern-va-teen-wears-homemade-newspaper-dress-to-the-newseum/2012/07/20/gJQAAULvxW_blog.html
I made the dress strapless and it held up just fine. Wore a thin belt for accent rather than the waistband. No petticoat but wore this little skirt under. Added gold sequins along the neckline and bottom of the dress. Paper bow tie.
I served cocktails in this dress for 5 hours. It held up just fine.
Bekah Paper Dress-7.jpg
prixprix (author)  rebekahdillon2 years ago
Adorable! Love your accessories. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for helping me get started. I wanted to WOW the judges at a recent Drag Ball in Vermont. And it stole the show....
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I was afraid of the attached bottom being a bit weird in the car. So I took three sheets of newspaper and pleated them, did a another set, sewed the two together and bent them over a ribbon and sewed them to that. It seemed to hold up really well. I put ribbon on it to jazz it up a bit along with a black crinoline to flair out the dress a bit more. Thank you again.
prixprix (author)  rickythebarber2 years ago
So awesome, thanks for sharing pics! I love your update with the nicer skirt- sounds like a good solution to the tearing problem and it looks gorgeous!
Pommedhappy2 years ago
Made a lazy version (didn't do the nice neckline, reinforced armpits, or second line of stitching, and ended up relying heavily on sticky tape for the skirt. No straps either, we attached it to my bra straps with safety pins...). We spraypainted the corset with gold, though....
I got so many compliments, people are still talking about my awesome dress apparently (party was last week).
Looking back, I shouldn't have skipped the reinforcing of the armholes, they ripped a bit (but I came equiped with tape, so my friends were fixing my outfit through the nigh)

Thanks you so much for this instructables, first time I actually take the plunge and try something!
prixprix (author)  Pommedhappy2 years ago
Oh I'm so glad to hear this! I'd love to see a picture of yours, the gold corset sounds amazing! Glad the instructions worked out for you.
okay, hopefully attaching the right images, We had a lot of fun with this!
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KSGlenn2 years ago
Thank you Laura so much for putting these instructions up! I had a great time dancing in this dress and then going to a Halloween party. I had to reinforce it with tape (All that dancing) but it held up great. I cannot really sew, but I found it completely doable and rewarding to make. Thanks for sharing your creativity!
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prixprix (author)  KSGlenn2 years ago
This looks so fantastic! Love how you used some color in the newspaper, and what a perfect backdrop. Amazing photo, thanks for sharing! So glad you had fun with the newspaper dress.
idk why it's sideways... lol
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prixprix (author)  salatinecracka3 years ago
It turned out so cute! You did such a good job putting it together. How awesome for the prom! The red sash is so perfect. Have a great time :)
mesheath3 years ago
I loved making this dress! Thanks for the instructions! I wore it to my office party as "Huey Lewis and The News" (I stapled a picture of them in the green heart on my chest!)
If I ever decide to wear it again, I will try and fix the petticoat so that I can sit down without it tearing!
Huey.jpg
prixprix (author)  mesheath3 years ago
That turned out so cute! Glad you enjoyed making it.
klohoff3 years ago
Just finished making this for my daughter to wear as her Homecoming dress. Your instructions were fantastic and she was thrilled with the final product. One of her friends made a duct tape dress, another made a bubble wrap dress, and still another made one from leftover yarn. I was nervous at first, but it was done in one day.. just in time for pre-party pictures!
prixprix (author)  klohoff3 years ago
That's awesome! I'd love to see a picture of how yours turned out!
One last pic... of all the girls in their homemade dresses.
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prixprix (author)  klohoff3 years ago
Wow this turned out so cute! So fun how they all did recycled dresses. I like the modified slim skirt version. Thanks for sharing!
Absolutely...the dress held up through a night of heavy duty dancing. The petticoat did tear, but it wasn't noticeable and she kept wearing it. She brought a backup dress just in case.....the bodice stayed completely intact and she got tons of comments even today at school!
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klohoff3 years ago
One more... the pictues above don't have her face because she had no makeup on yet... here is a pic with her friends.The only thing we did differently was to make a more straightlined skirt... she didn't want it to be poufy.It was beautiful.... pretty easy to see her up in front. The girl on her left was the duct tape dress.
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liadukes2 months ago

I noticed that your pictures showed you standing up. Was it easy to sit down in? Also, is there a way to protect it against the weather?

prixprix (author)  liadukes2 months ago

You could sit on a bench or a chair with no back, but the back of the torso is stiff and flares out, so a car or couch is challenging and could rip it. It is not really meant for weather. I've heard that you can try ironing the newsprint before sewing to minimize ink smearing, and maybe you could use an artwork sealant on it after, but it is a flammable paper dress so be aware of that.

sofiadaepic4 months ago

Dude, this is awesome! You have some legit skill! =D

hi is there a way of downloading this without becoming a pro member? its amazing!!
NOODLE!1 year ago
This. Is. AMAZING. want to make this.
sabu.dawdy1 year ago
http://www.instructables.com/id/Newspaper-Shoes/


shoes to go with your dress :p
prixprix (author)  sabu.dawdy1 year ago
Awesome!
Amba81 year ago
Love your paper prom dress ;) A bit too summery for freezing cold London x
prixprix (author)  Amba81 year ago
Thanks!
yo.lizzy1 year ago
Hey, I love your dress and am making in for halloween, I'm going as a newsie, liberal media, or an undecided voter.
prixprix (author)  yo.lizzy1 year ago
Awesome, I'd love to see pics of how it turned out!
I'm working on a design for a book-page jacket, and I am so glad that I found this! I don't sew, and book paper acts differently than newsprint, but your pleating and ideas about construction in the waist and bust areas are immensely helpful - and the Velcro closures are GENIUS!
prixprix (author)  angelprojekt1 year ago
Thanks, glad it helped!
OMG THIS IS PERFECT FOR MY NEXT CRAFT PROJECT !!!! Do u know how to make other newspaper garments also?

Kirin
You could try looking on Instructables for other newspaper craft ideas, but this is the only one I've done
prixprix (author) 1 year ago
Also, these awesome girls made a music video wearing the newspaper dresses they made from this design! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIzBOgnftYY
Can't wait to try this it looks great especially on you
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