'Build Her a Myth' Uses Paper Dresses to Critique Feminine Culture

Romance novels. Lots of pages from romance novels.

That’s the medium for Carrie Schumacher’s Build Her a Myth, the current exhibit at Dittmar Gallery in Norris Center. But her creation is not what you would expect.

Schumacher used the pages to create life-sized (and some mini-sized) dresses, showcased on mannequins, to "examine the demands that feminine culture places upon women," particularly at the intersection of fashion and romance. From flower accessories to skirts resembling tulle fabric, paper is the medium for the intricate design and unique style of each dress.

Build Her a Myth is on display through Sunday, December 4.

Here is Schumacher’s description of her thought process in creating the exhibit:

"The dresses I create from the pages of romance novels examine the demands that feminine culture places upon women by utilizing the garment as a social signifier. Women often define themselves through clothing; we use our appearance to project ambitions, attract mates and signal our social status. Fashion magazines become the bibles that guide the creation of self-image, and generation after generation of females have been programmed to buy into this culture of unrealistic beauty.

Romance novels echo this sentiment, as they represent an impossible alternate reality, one where relationships are all-consuming and eternally passionate. Reality never touches either the fashion or romance realms, but the former is advertised as a way to obtain the latter.

The dresses reflect this as they are seductively beautiful, but due to the material from which they are created, unable to be worn. Completely without function, it represents how useless the feminine myths we have created are in real life."