Pret-a-Papier at Hillwood Estate

IMG_2377I often see announcements for exhibits and plan to make time to go but forget amidst the chaos of work and life.  I happened to re-read a recent issue of Veranda and came across a blurb about an exhibit at the Hillwood Estate in DC that combined paints, paper, and fashion.  I had never heard of Hillwood but upon further research realized it was the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post.  (In my head – “Duh! Merriweather Post Pavillion!“– The place where in high school I hopped the fence to many a concert…  Until it changed owners and a huge berm and two barbed wire fences were erected, oh, and a highway transected my pathway to the venue. Hmph!) But I digress…

The exhibit was of the works of artist Isabelle De Borchgrave of Brussels.  She creates fashions out of paint and paper.  I was skeptical until I looked up the Atelier and was blown away and the detail and realism she has realized with paper.  The exhibit was to close in early January so I had to go and with Christmas break around the corner I had some time to play with.

So I passed the idea by Mike and gave him the right of first refusal.  Secretly I wanted him to say no because I think my mom would LOVE to see this since she sews and would appreciate both the methods as well as the construction of the pieces. I think he knew that and so I asked my mom and of course she wanted to go.

I just have to say first what a treasure the Hillwood Estate is, and how ignorant I feel for not knowing about its existence.  The home is filled with Mrs. Post’s collection of French porcelain and Russian liturgical artifacts and Relics that were to end up melted down by the Russian government after the Revolution.

Oh but the paper, it was simply stunning!  It was mind-blowing how Borchgrave manipulated paper and paints to replicate fabrics like silk, brocade, trims, precious gems, and metals.

Detail of Dress in the style of Empress Josephine shown above:

Fortuny Inspired Dresses:


Marie Antoinette:IMG_2346

Polonaise Dress:IMG_2334 IMG_2333

“Robe a l’Anglaise” detail:IMG_2328

Dress inspired by the paintings of Jean-Antoinne WatteauIMG_2322

Pierrot Jacket and Petticoat:


Russian Traditional Dress inspired by the painting of the Wedding behind it:IMG_2231 IMG_2228 IMG_2227 IMG_2225

Countess Samoilova:IMG_2215 IMG_2214 IMG_2213

French Drawing Room:IMG_2182 IMG_2176 IMG_2175 IMG_2174 IMG_2144 IMG_2136

You can see more about the exhibit here,

More about Isabelle De Borchgrave and her Atelier:

2 Replies to “Pret-a-Papier at Hillwood Estate”

  1. Wow Dee! Thank you for sharing this information. The estate and the work of De Borchgrave is stunning. How long does it take her to complete 1 gown? It seems to me her work is almost more precious than her inspiration pieces. I would love to go take a tour of the estate.

    1. Lisa- not sure how long they take but probably months! Her website is very informative in showing how they are made. I like them better than the originals also! I believe they’ve extended the exhibit through January 30th.

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