Oxfam is a treasure trove of pre-loved literature seeking a new bookshelf and, continuing the celebration of World Book Day, it can be exciting to see how artists, designers and creatives reuse the tattered pages of discarded books in their work. The idea of ripping precious books to pieces feels almost sinful but they can be artfully revived into a whole new story.
American artist/dressmaker Carrie Ann Schumacher has crafted a wardrobe of novel dresses creating a beautiful fusion of fiction and fashion. Working her way through a box of abandoned romance paperbacks, and armed with simple scrapbooking tools and techniques, Schumacher is not trained in fashion design or sculpture but instead let creativity, inspiration and imagination take charge with these glorious gowns.
As an avid reader herself, she takes inspiration from personal experiences, colour, cuts of paper and different textures which she then recreates in unique paper form. She said: "having that one piece of inspiration, whatever it is and wherever it came from, jump starts the entire dress and I react intuitively to what I have placed down and work off of that."
Although the dresses are not wearable, with exception of Desiree and the Boy that Broke Her Heart which can be physically worn but with little movement, they are an exquisite ornamental fashion statement. "I get emails from women all over the world who want to wear these dresses and it is one of my dreams to have they pieces made into wearable fabric garments. So, whoever you are out there who wants to make this happen, contact me. I'm ready!"
In her own words, here are some of the fantastic fables behind the frocks...
"Harlequin was the first dress I created and was specifically made for a show themed around the dichotomy of invisibility and visibility. I had sworn off gender specific work after my undergraduate career, but the theme of the show made me think of the visible and invisible parts of womanhood. For me, romance novels and fashion represent the visible parts, the ideas of love and beauty we sell to girls as they grow into women. These concepts are seductive, and they hide the not so pleasant aspect of inequality."
HarlequinDESIREE AND THE BOY THAT BROKE HER HEART
"I made Desiree and the Boy that Broke Her Heart next with the intent of seeing if I could make one of these pieces wearable and it is although very uncomfortable. One day, one of my classmates told me a story about how our friend Desiree had her heart broken years before and was never able to move on. When I related this story to Desiree, she burst out laughing because none of it was true but I found the fabricated story to be enthralling. I tried to imagine what kind of dress would be a visualization of this heartbreak and made a dress for an innocent and shattered girl."
Desiree and the boy who broke her heartNEVER THE PROM QUEEN
"For Never the Prom Queen, I really wanted to work with colour. I used back issues of magazines, bought a large hole-puncher and knocked this out in a weekend. I keep changing the title of this piece and I'll probably change Never the Prom Queen when a better phrase hits me. I feel this one is for that girl who keeps trying to be "it". She reads the magazines, follows the trends, puts in the work and effort, but never quite makes it. On paper she should be the prom queen, but she never is because it is just not her."
ALICE AND THE BOY SHE LEFT BEHIND
"Alice and the Boy She Left Behind was made the week after my grandmother's death and somewhat covered all the emotions I have regarding that time period. I felt that my grandmother was having trouble leaving this world and moving on to the next; I felt her presence very strongly in the weeks after her death. There was a very ritualistic aspect to this dress and it was extremely laborious to make but the mindlessness and repetitiveness became meditative. Secondly, the grief of my grandfather upon losing his wife was quite overwhelming. Their relationship was all-consuming to him and losing her was devastating beyond words. The enormity of this dress demonstrates the engulfing quality of his grief and desperation; It's poetic and tragic, all in the same breath."
Why you don't kiss and tellWHY YOU DON'T KISS AND TELL // OH, YOU'RE GONNA LOSE YOUR SOUL
"Why You Don't Kiss and Tell and Oh, You're Gonna Lose Your Soul are sorority sisters, with Kiss and Tell being the young naive sister and Lose Your Soul being worldly and a bit jaded. Kiss and Tell arrives at college fresh-faced, friendly and eager but then she will kiss and tell and get her heart broken in the process. It's the dress that she'll wear on her first real night out, when her hopes and dreams are still untouched. Lose Your Soul is the aftermath."
Emil and le vie en roseEMIL AND LA VIE EN ROSE
"My newest dress, Emil and La Vie en Rose turned out to be about my grandfather which was not a preconceived concept but what happened as the piece was coming together. This one is a delicate little slip of a thing that seemed fit for someone who lives in their own little world, a daydreamer who only sees the world through rose-colored glasses."
If you prefer your books in a more readable form, visit the Oxfam Online Shop for a literary feast.