Some advice for anyone who wants to try this at home: Try it! It’s fun, and you can experiment with fashion ideas without worrying about ruining expensive fabric. Be careful though — newspaper is very stiff and fragile. This makes it difficult to work with, or simply, it’s very different than working with fabric.
The first thing I did was come up with a design idea. I wanted something that would look awesome, but would be pretty easy to make. I decided on a fairly simple Victorian-style dress. Not that easy, maybe, but it definitely would look awesome. I also decided to use black and silver duct tape, which would not only hold it together, but would look like a nice trim.
I decided on a long, pleated skirt, with a few embellishments in the back to simulate a bustle, but in a way that really emphasized the medium of newspaper. I decided on pleats because I knew that newspaper would be basically impossible to gather, but pleats achieve nearly the same effect and would work much more nicely with the stiffness of the medium.
The skirt was easy. I didn’t need a pattern, I just taped a lot of sheets of newspaper together into one very long piece, and cut it off to the correct length for a skirt. Then I pleated the middle of it, taping down the pleats at the top, until it was a good length to fit around my waist with enough overlap. Here’s a photo of the skirt at that point.
The skirt just wraps around and tapes closed in the front. I also added a cool folded detail to the edge of the front overlap.
Now, unfortunately, I didn’t get any work in progress photos of the top of the dress, so I’ll just have to describe it to you. I knew that making the top wouldn’t be as easy as the skirt, so I decided to use a pattern for it. Even with that, I ended up choosing a kind of advanced pattern. The only reason I chose it was because I had used it before, and because I thought it would work well with the newspaper (I was half right and half wrong on that count).
So I started out just like I was sewing something normal–finding the pattern pieces I needed and cutting them out of the newspaper (okay, so the newspaper part wasn’t normal, but the process was). From there, I actually had to cut the newspaper pattern pieces smaller. Because I wouldn’t be making real seams, I cut off the seam allowance so that I could tape the pieces together, with the edges right next to each other. By the way, taping is much faster than sewing. I was surprised at how quickly I made this costume! Sewing it would have taken weeks!
So I just taped the pieces together to make the bodice of the dress. There was one unlucky surprise–I didn’t realize that the sleeves were supposed to be gathered into the armscye, so I had to make do by making tiny pleats until the sleeves fit onto the bodice. Overall I think it made the sleeves look kind of crumpled, but I don’t think there was any way to prevent that.
The bodice pattern is designed to close in the front with buttons–instead I just used pieces of black tape to serve that purpose.
Then I decided to go one step further to make the costume even more awesome, and added a hat. My original idea was to have a witch hat with a very wide brim, with rolled up newspaper to match the “bustle” on the skirt. So I made the brim first . . . only to discover that it was far too heavy. It was just too much newspaper, and it couldn’t support its own weight!
I thought about reinforcing it with cardboard, but ultimately decided that a change of hat design was a better idea. Instead of wide, I would go with tall, and to continue the rolled-up newspaper motif, I made two long “plumes” to go on the side of the hat. The hat itself would just be a cone, like a witch hat, but without a brim at all.
I’m not sure how many hours it took, but I used up about 3 full newspapers making this costume!