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Pretty in Paper: Isabelle de Borchgrave’s Elaborate Paper Fashions Arrive in SF

Made entirely of paper, the gown shown here is Marie de’ Medici, 2006, inspired by a 1595 portrait by Pietro Facchetti in the collection of the Palazzo Lancellotti, Rome. Photo courtesy of Andreas von Einsiedel

Fashion and art collide in Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave, opening this weekend at the Legion of Honor and on view through June 5. The first major U.S. exhibition of the Belgian artist’s stunning paper gowns, historic costumes and couture looks inspired by the work of fashion icons such as Coco Chanel and Christian Dior features over 60 tromp l’oeil creations constructed entirely of paper crumpled, pleated, braided, painted and otherwise manipulated to mimic textiles and wearable accessory objects.

Though trained as a painter, de Borchgrave is best known for masterfully transforming paper into opulent, life-size dresses inspired by the fashions of the rich and famous in time periods from the early European to the early 20th century. Among the works on display are gowns based on those worn by Renaissance-era members of the Medici family, as well as Elizabeth I and Marie-Antoinette. More contemporary offerings come in the form of looks based on the work of artist Mariano Fortuny and grand couturiers such as Dior and Chanel.

In addition to the finished works, the exhibition also features a mock artist’s studio that offers a behind-the-scenes look at de Borchgrave’s creative process and a separate showcase of nine dresses in pure white that allows onlookers to view the intricacies of the gowns without paint.

Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave runs Feb. 5-June 5, 2011. A special family day featuring a demonstration by de Borchgrave and art-making opportunities for children ages 6 to 12 takes place this Saturday from 11 am-3 pm.