Playing Card Dress

For this project, we were given ten decks of playing cards (donated by a casino) and were instructed to make a wearable object of only playing cards and staples. I worked tirelessly over the three weeks we had to complete this project, racking up 27 studio hours. In the end I came up with three pieces — a skirt, a top, and a corset — that used a total of 752 playing cards (about 250 more cards than we were originally given).

When working with the cards, I had to work through two main issues. One was that the backs of the cards displayed the casino logo. I did not think that the logo contributed to my design, in fact, I believe that it would have hindered it. In order to combat this issue, I strategically placed the cards (when using the pink backing) so that the logo could not be seen. The technique I used can be seen in the pink layers of the skirt. Another way to jump this hurdle was to buy a couple of packs of cards that had a nicer backing — these cards would be the red ones shown throughout the piece. In addition to the obvious logo, I also had to work around holes that were cut into the cards. You see, casinos can only use a deck of cards once, then they have to mark the cards as used. To do this, they use a machine to punch a hole through the deck so they know that the deck has been used. While this is an effective system, I had to work my way around the holes that were in each card. By carefully overlapping and cutting the cards, I was able to avoid any holes.

Using staples to connect the cards did not prove to be too much of a problem. In order to keep the staples from snagging on my clothes underneath, I was allowed to tape over the rough edges. The only problem that I seemed to face with the stables was that the more I layered the cards, the harder it was to staple. Fortunately, I was able to staple whenever I needed (sometimes with a bit more effort). It was a bit limiting, however, only being able to use cards and staples because in the end I had to have a friend staple me into the outfit.

When creating this project, I had to follow the planes of the body. To do this, I stapled both the corset and the skirt at an angle to follow the curves of the body. In the top, I had to cut the cards at a curve over the breasts and then work the rest of the cards around those two cards. The form of the piece allowed for very little mobility. Once I was stabled into the outfit, it stayed on until I was done with the fashion show and photos. When walking in the piece, I had to take tiny and very careful steps, and when hiking up the stairs I had to bend back in order to lift my knee to place my foot on the next step.

Originally, I had designed a completely different skirt. The skirt was going to consist of multiple layers, some of which would loop back into itself to add volume to the design. I ran into a problem when trying to do this, however. When looping the cards, gaps began to appear. After a full day of trying to get this design to work, I eventually had to scrap it and completely redesign the skirt. In the end, I had to realize that my skill was in the detail and patterning, and not in the volume. After realizing this, I got to work on the intricately patterned skirt that is shown above.

All in all, even though this project was a lot of work I really enjoyed it and hope to someday make some more playing card fashion!


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