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The Blog of Emily McDowell Studio

The Story Of The Card Dress, and a Social Media Experiment

Back in March, I was thinking out loud (which I do a lot, to the annoyance of everyone around me) about our spring wholesale catalog, and I said something like, "What if I was wearing a fancy dress made out of cards?" Our director of production, Katherine Voorhies, who has a background in fashion and costume design, piped up from across the room: "I could totally make that." Three weeks later, I was posing for the front cover of our catalog on a street corner in downtown Los Angeles, wearing a custom-tailored floor-length gown made entirely from our cards. This is the story of how it came together. At the end of this post, we're asking for your help with a little social media project involving Hallmark and Project Runway. Intrigued? Keep reading! Photo credit: Dikka Afidick,

Starting from a sketch (I provided absolutely zero direction on this, beyond my measurements), Katherine worked out design and construction methods that were suited to the material, and came up with the idea of a bodice top and skirt that would look like a seamless dress when worn. I am way more glamorous in sketch form. I am way more glamorous in sketch form. For the bodice, Katherine collaborated with architectural designer Duane McLemore to help custom-tailor the fit. Duane used 3D modeling and scripting software (both of which he teaches at Woodbury University) to shape the bodice to my measurements.   Katherine then cut the greeting cards according to the output of Duane’s 3-D file, to create a bodice tailor-made for me. The bodice is made of cards attached together by cut notch and groove; no glue, fabric, or other material was involved(!). To form the skirt, she draped long strands of cards from a concealed waistband that she made from one of our dish towels and tote bags. CatalogCover1 copy Photo credit: Dikka Afidick,

As you can see from these pictures, Katherine and Duane totally nailed the fit. Like, it fit better than many articles of normal clothing I own. I can't really sit down in it, and the card edges make it kind of pointy, so it's not practical for wearing for long periods of time, but I can easily walk in it. After the photo shoot, we shipped the card dress to New York, where it was displayed on a mannequin in our booth during the National Stationery Show in May at the Javits Center. (I would have destroyed it by sweating all over it if I'd tried to wear it. Ew.) NSS is the only trade show focused exclusively on stationery, and thousands of store buyers from all over the country come to see and place orders from vendors' latest collections. (If you're curious, I've written more about the show here.) We invited buyers to photograph the dress in our booth and post them using #CARDWEAR. We invited buyers to photograph the dress in our booth and post them using #CARDWEAR.[/caption] We'll be returning to New York and the Javits Center this week for NYNOW, another trade show focusing on the gift market, and the #CARDWEAR dress will again be front and center in our booth, #7849. After the show, we'll be shipping the dress back to its new permanent home in our Los Angeles showroom. We've just learned that tomorrow night's episode of Project Runway (airing on Lifetime, 8pm EST, August 13th) was sponsored by Hallmark, and the contestants will be making dresses out of Hallmark cards. I think Katherine's amazing creation, and our idea, deserves to be part of the judging, don't you? When Project Runway fans tweet about the show, each designer has their own hashtag: #designersteve, #designerkim, etc. So I'm proposing an experiment: let's see if we can get photos of our dress with #designerkatherine and #emilymcdowellstudio trending on social media before, during and after the episode (don't forget to tag @projectrunway and @hallmark!). You can grab photos from this post, or our instagram, twitter or Facebook pages. Or just keep it simple and retweet us! If you're a store buyer and you took a photo of our dress at NSS, post it! If you're a Project Runway designer who made a Hallmark card dress (or you're friends with one!), and you happen to be reading this, I'd like to invite you to display your dress next to ours in our NYNOW booth next week. Send us an email ( and we'll make it happen.