Each year, thousands of visitors pose with the Newseum’s “Front Page Gallery,” which displays the front pages of more than 80 newspapers from around the world on any given day. A Falls Church teen decided she didn’t want to simply pose with the page. She wanted to be the page.
“And thread,” she clarifies. “To hold it all together.”
Within days of the visit, photos of Tran and her homemade newspaper dress were making the rounds online.
“Fierce dress,” someone commented on the Newseum’s Facebook page.
“I would subscribe to this,” wrote another.
This wasn’t the first time Tran, who says she has “loved artsy things like sewing and baking” since she was little, made her own clothes. “I’ve made skirts before. And I’ve turned sweaters into pillows. I love repurposing things,” she says.
But it was her first attempt at an original design. “I never expected it would get all this attention,” she says.
Tran created the newspaper dress in the fall of 2011, when she was a freshman at Mclean High School. “It was my Halloween costume,” she says. “I liked the idea of making my own costume and I wanted it to be eco-friendly and recyclable. I decided to make it out of newspaper.”
She found instructions for her craft project online. Since her family reads news on the Web, “I had to actually go out and buy a bunch of newspapers.” She came home with a stack: The Washington Post and The New York Times.
She used The Post to create the front of the dress as well as the belt, which prominently features the paper’s name. The Times was used for the backside of the dress.
The Times “is a physically larger paper, and I needed to cover more area in the back,” she explains. “And I really wanted The Post to be in the front since that’s where I’m from.”
While she doesn’t remember which stories were on the front page of the papers she used, Jennifer says she “tried hard to pick pages that weren’t depressing. Nothing about the prime minister of some country getting assassinated.”
She describes the process of making the dress as “kind of a disaster.” For two weeks, she spent several hours each day sitting on the floor patching the pieces together.
“I thought about laminating the pages, but then I thought that would take away from the aesthetic. So I just used paper and thread.”
While it was aesthetically more pleasing without reinforcement, the medium was fragile and prone to ripping. “Every time anyone walked in the room, I’d be like ‘Aghhh.’”
In all, she estimates that about three newspapers were used to create a fabric sturdy enough to be worn.
Jennifer debuted the dress on Halloween, luckily without any wardrobe malfunctions. “I was praying that it wouldn’t rain and that it wouldn’t rip in the car.”
The dress not only survived, but continued to sit in her room for the next eight months. Last week, Jennifer’s older sister, Sandra, suggested they visit the Newseum. Jennifer jumped at the chance to take the dress out for another spin.
“I was sure the staff would get a kick out of it, but I didn’t expect people at the museum to follow me around. From far away it looks like a real dress. It’s a little stiff, not comfortable to sit in,” she says. “But people took pictures of me and a couple of them wanted to be in the picture with me.”
Jennifer is already contemplating this year’s Halloween costume, which she plans to design again. “I’m thinking candy wrappers,” she says. “Ot maybe playing cards. We’ll see.”
Tell us: What is the most unique thing you’ve ever done with a newspaper? Share in the comments below.
Make your own newspaper dress:
Give it a try. Here are directions from CutOutAndKeep.com, an arts and crafts website.