Introduction: Vintage Clothing Lamps

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This year PROMdemonium, "Ottawa’s radical, community-oriented, gender-bending, bike-loving, enviro-humping, queer-diggin, slow dancing, big dress wearing prom," moved to the National Arts Centre. While the classy venue was an exciting change of locale, the two huge formal rooms presented a challenge for PromD's decorations committee.

Our decorations needed to be fun, high impact, environmentally friendly and, since this is a fundraiser above all else, cheap.

Fortunately these vintage prom-wear lamps are all that and more!

The inspiration for these lights came from a photo by Tim Walker and matsutake's electrified fox lamp.

The first two photos posted here are thanks to the very talented Ming Wu.

Step 1: What You'll Need


-Dress or shirt and tie

Look for clothing that will let light shine through, nothing too thick or dark. When choosing the outfit at a thrift store hold it up towards a light source to see if it will let enough light through. Avoid dresses with thin straps and be aware that dresses with more structure will hold their shape better than flowy outfits.

-Lamp base

Ikea's Dudero lamp works perfectly for dresses
Ikea's Not lamp is great for shirts once you remove one section to make it shorter
Both of these lamps, and other similar styles, are easily found second hand on sites like craigslist & kijiji. We paid between $5 and $10 for each lamp.

-Stiffy or similar fabric stiffener

We were able to do about 3 dresses with one 472 ml bottle of Stiffy (stretched out with glue and water). How much you will need will depend on the size and material of the clothing you choose.

-White glue (optional)
-Plastic wrap or large plastic bags

-Dress form and/or tape

If you don't have a dummy on hand, you can make one by wrapping a volunteer in tape like so

-Wire (a metal hanger will work in a pinch)


-pliers and wire cutters

-needle and thread

Step 2: Prepare the Outfit & Dummy

If you haven't found an outfit that is perfect as-is, you may want to alter it. You'll want to make all the changes before stiffening the fabric, so now is the time to take up the skirt, add ruffles and bows or do whatever else you need to do.

Next you'll need to prepare your dummy. Adjust your dress form so the clothing fits nicely. Cover the form with plastic wrap or plastic bags to protect it from getting stuck to the clothing. Don't use bags with logos on them as the writing or images may transfer onto the clothing.

If your dress has sleeves your form will need arms. You can make arms the same way you can make an entire form out of tape. I've used duct tape in the past, but for this project I made copies of my arms as well as my boyfriend's entire torso from packing tape. First wrap your arm (or torso) in plastic wrap and then completely wrap it in tape. When finished, cut off the cast, tape it back together and then stuff it with newspaper.

For full skirts you may want to add a crinoline to your dummy. Be sure to protect the crinoline with a large plastic bag.

Step 3: Insert Stiffy Joke Here

Using Stiffy can be messy, so set up your dummy in the bathtub or on a large drop cloth.

Straight Stiffy works, but I found it was cheaper to stretch it out with equal parts of water and white glue. Just glue and water may also do the trick if you can't get fabric stiffener in your local walmart or craft store.

Mix up your Stiffy and glue and apply it to the clothing with a paint brush. Thoroughly saturate the entire outfit.

While it is still wet, make sure you are happy with how the clothing is hanging on the dummy and then leave it to dry over night.

Step 4: Adding a Wire Frame

After it is completely dry, carefully remove the clothing from your dummy. You may need to detach the dummy arms or remove stuffing to get the stiff clothing off of the form.

Next you will need to create a wire frame to attach the clothing to the lamp like a lamp shade. How you shape the wire frame will depend on the shape of the clothing and your lamp.

Using a needle and thread, you can secure wire along key seems, such as the neckline, waist and shoulders, to help maintain the outfit's shape.

Make sure that the wire frame will keep the fabric a safe distance away from the lamp's light bulbs.

Step 5: Party Time!

Your vintage clothing lamps are now done!

Screw in some low heat cfl or led light bulbs and impress all the party goers with your ghostly glowing garments.

We found that in addition to providing fabulous mood lighting, these lamps make great photo props as people could stand behind them and appear to be wearing the glowing clothing.

Please keep in mind that these are decorative items only and shouldn't be left on unattended.

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