Paper Dress From Old Magazines

Introduction: Paper Dress From Old Magazines

My husband has been after me for years to get rid of all those old magazines taking up space in our garage. I don’t know why, but I just have the hardest time throwing out a magazine. Even if I never look at them a second time, I just can’t do it. Coming across this paper contest was just what my husband ordered. I thought, there’s got to be something I can do with all those magazines! One of my favorite shows is Project Runway and for those of you who watch, will know the unconventional challenge is the best! (The unconventional challenge is where contestants must create fashion with unconventional materials.) I figured I would try to think like a designer/contestant in the unconventional challenge, even though I have no sewing ability at all and try to create something fashionable out of magazines. This is the first time I have ever made a dress let alone a paper dress. I really wanted it to be something you could wear on the street and people would think that it was a real dress. Don’t be afraid if you don’t know how to sew. You can do this! I did it! It was a super fun project and I’m so happy to share it here with everyone. (Sadly for my husband, it only took about 1 and a half magazines to complete. I may have to start my own line of paper dresses to get rid of the rest of the magazines.

Okay! Let’s get started!

Step 1: Materials

What you will need:
Dress form (I found mine on Letgo for $10 but you may already have one.) There is also loads of YouTube videos on how to make your own dress form too.

Plastic wrap


Paper Trimmer (optional but highly recommended)

Old Magazines cut into 1 inch strips

Decoupage liquid such as mod podge, gel medium or Polyurethane. I used Polyurethane for this project because I already had it on hand.

Sponge Brushes (I found they were a little bit softer and there was less tearing of the paper, than a regular paint brush)

Freezer Wrap

Cello tape

double stick tape

Gloves (optional)

Total cost for this dress was the $10 I spent on the dress form. I had everything else on hand.

Step 2: Get Your Vision

Before you start, it’s a good idea to have a vision of the dress you are trying to create. Here I drew (somewhat badly I might add) a sketch so I would have a loose map of where I was heading. (Please forgive my drawing) In the end, I went with pointy tips on the neck line rather than the rounded edge because it would have a neater finish when I added the trim. I didn't think I would be able to get a clean finished look with a rounded edge. I wasn't %100 attached to the drawing because I wasn't sure how the magazine paper would conform. Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow.

Step 3: Wrap Your Form

Next: Completely wrap your dress form with plastic wrap, being sure to cover all the area where you plan to decoupage the magazine strips. I used some tape to secure the plastic wrap it to the dress

Step 4: Start Cutting

Next, break the spine of the magazine and section off small clusters of pages about 6-7 pages if using a paper trimmer. This was a good amount for the paper trimmer I was using. Cut one inch strips until you go crazy. When you think you have enough, cut some more. (If using scissors, you might want to use 2 or 3 pages at a time rather than 6 or 7 for the shift factor when cutting.)

Step 5: Covering the Form

With the sponge brush, and your choice of decoupage liquid, start applying pieces, strip by strip. First lay a coat of varnish down, then apply the magazine strip on top and brush over the strip to secure it. Keep applying each strip, overlapping slightly as you go. (Using a sharpie, I drew a line to create the shape of the dress.). I tried to keep the placement of the strips directional in accordance with the shape of the form to keep from getting too many wrinkles in the paper. Keep repeating this step until the entire bodice is covered. I originally was going for the rounded neckline in the drawing, but decided to add more strips so I would have more options when I finished When you are happy with the coverage, let this fully dry before the next step. Mine took about 2 hours.

Step 6: Creating the Skirt Base

Once the bodice is dried, it’s time to create the skirt. (I used freezer wrap because I could get a nice long length of paper and by crossing it over in the back, it would give me the a-symmetrical look I was aiming for.) Before cutting, do a loose wrap around the form that will give you an overlap of about a foot and a half. Cut the paper off the roll and find the center. Secure the center of freezer wrap to the front of the form with some tape, just below the natural waist line of the form. Pull the remainder around to the back at an angle keeping the edge flush with the form. Using tape secure the first side down in the back. Take the other side and do the same thing crossing over the previous piece in the back. Secure with tape. The freezer wrap should be in the shape of a V in the back as pictured with a longer back. Run tape over all the loose ends of the freezer wrap on both the underside and top side where it connects in the back.

Step 7: Connecting the Skirt to the Bodice

Now to connect the skirt to the bodice, you will repeat what you did in step 3 by laying a coat of varnish, placing the magazine strips, making sure the strips extend over both the bodice and the skirt to conjoin them. Try to follow the same angle as you have on the bodice as you cross over onto the skirt. You won’t need to completely cover the white skirt. Just enough to effectively connect the skirt to the bodice keeping in mind where you would like the curly part to begin.

Step 8: Time to Curl

Now it’s time to do some curling! You should still have magazine strips left over, but if you need more you can always cut more.

To create the curls it’s much like curling ribbon on the back of a scissors which you can always use. But, I found that the easiest way to curl the magazine strips was to use the edge of my dining room chair. It had a good sharp corner. To use my method place the magazine strip on the edge, holding a couple of fingers over the top and gently pulling the strip down towards the floor but at a slight angle to get more of a corkscrew curl than a pig tail curl. The dining room chair edge was the one was the one that worked best for me and gave me the best curl. You may find a better way. This was also pretty speedy. The faster the better, because you need lots!

Step 9:

Once you have a million curls, you can start applying them to the skirt. Starting at the bottom of the skirt, run a length of double stick tape around the edge. Attach one strip at a time, slightly overlapping each one by about an 1/8th of and inch. On the next layer up, same thing, lay a length of double stick tape, but on this layer, shift the placement slightly to bisect the strips on the layer below. This shifting will give you better coverage. Repeat these steps layer, by layer, shifting each successive layer slightly, until you reach the top. As you get closer to the top you will place the strips in accordance with the angle you created on the bodice. I tried to keep all the magazine strips at the same angle pointing straight down towards the floor even when I reached the angled areas further up.

Step 10: Removing the Dress From the Form

Now it’s time to remove the completed dress from the form. I started by first cutting away all the exposed plastic wrap then cut in the neckline and neatened up the curve along the sides. After that, I cut the back open with about a 6 inch slice. I still had to shimmy it off very carefully so as not to tear past the split. Now you can really clean up those edges and clean up the shape of the neckline the way you like it. I decided on this style, but you can choose which ever style you like.

Step 11: Finishing Touches

For the finishing touches...I ran 1 inch magazine strips folded in half over all of the raw edges. I tried to choose the darkest strips to finish the edges to give it a bit of contrast and to make it look like trim. Where the curls meet the bodice, I covered the raw edges of the curls with a few more strips to give it a nice finished look.

Step 12: The Fashion Show!

Now you’ll have to find someone skinny enough to fit into the dress. Because my form was an extra small, I was limited to who I could get to model it. When I first started this project not knowing how it would turn out, I thought I would just take a picture of it on the form. But when I was finished with it, I thought it would have a little more impact to have it on an actual person. Thankfully, I have a great friend that’s up for anything and super excited about wearing a paper dress and she’s an extra small to boot! It wasn’t a perfect fit, but I think you’ll agree, she rocked it! Thanks Amy!!!

And thanks to all of you for taking a look!

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Runner Up in the
Paper Contest 2018



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    13 Discussions

    I think this is awesome and so does my 8yr old daughter, voted for you


    4 months ago

    I agree that Amy rocked that dress. She really looked like she enjoyed modeling it for you. How did you fasten it shut. Most dresses have a zipper in the back. This is a great idea for costumes for Hallowe'en or drama classes. If you were able to get multiple copies of old catalogues, or magazines, you could even pick and choose the pages for the colours you wanted.

    1 reply

    Thanks! She did rock it! I just split the back and when we got it on her put tape on the split to close it back up. Then split the tape again to get it off. Thanks for taking a look!

    What a great idea and what a great success. I love it, voted for you!

    1 reply

    I love this dress. I would totally wear this. I have trouble throwing out magazines too. What a great idea. Your instructions a very easy to follow too.

    1 reply

    LOVE this! Can't believe this is just one magazine!

    1 reply

    1 and a half really. Not enough for my husband.

    This came out awesome! I'm glad you had a friend who could try it out! What was your choice of decoupage liquid?

    1 reply

    Hi Penolopy! Yes, she's the best friend. She had so much fun it made it fun for me too. My choice of decoupage liquid was the polyurethane. Thanks for taking a look.

    this is amazing ,i totally think this should win

    Now that is a gift wrap available I like!