Fashion at the Hillwood Estate

Hillwood, Pret a Papier

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Hillwood Estate in DC.  The first time I visited was during last year's Seersucker Social, but I was too sick to walk around and enjoy the estate.

 This time my aim was to see the Pret a Papier exhibit of the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave.

Isn't that a beautiful dress?  Is it made of silk, cotton?  Is the lace Belgian?  Well, the lace is Belgian because the artist is, but it's made entirely of paper.  Amazing.  I didn't know what to expect with the dresses.  Once you know they're paper you can tell (mostly), but without that knowledge I would be a little stumped, I think.

Hillwood, Pret a Papier, Lace Detail

The lace was one of the best details, in my opinion.  She uses very very fine transparent paper and the carefully paints the lace design and scallops with scissors.  Close up you can tell it's created with paint, but from a few feet away the likeness is pretty astounding.

Hillwood, Pret a Papier

 The Hillwood commissioned several pieces for the exhibition based on portraits in their collection.  They displayed the dresses with the paintings by which they were inspired (here is another one, though I think this piece had already been created based on another of the artist's works).

Hillwood, Pret a Papier

The artist creates her own prints, including plaids and florals.  I loved the delicate print to this French court-style gown.  And don't miss a close-up of that waist adornment.

Hillwood, Pret a Papier, Paper Jewels

Everything is made of paper, including the jewels and other non-fabric decorative elements.

Hillwood, Pret a Papier

The artist even created shoes to go with some of the items!

Hillwood, Portrait

Unfortunately, this whole post is sort of a tease.   I went to the exhibit on the next to last day. It closed on January 21.

 However, there are still plenty of reasons to visit the Hillwood for fashion inspiration! There are many portraits throughout the estate, some from past centuries and some more recent. I loved the flapper vibe to this one.

Hillwood, Egg Charm Necklace

In addition, there are display cases with jewelry and knick knacks in various rooms of the estate. I was really charmed (heh, punny) by this egg charm necklace. And if you notice the emerald brooch in the photo above--the real thing is displayed in the bedroom closet and it is jaw-dropping.

Hillwood, Japanese Garden

The grounds are not to be missed. The Japanese garden is beautiful even during the winter.

Hillwood, Greenhouse

And if it's too cold to enjoy the grounds (January 20 turned out to be a ridiculously nice day--I walked around with only a sweater), there is always the greenhouse to get your orchid fix.

Though I am spoiled by DC's copious free museums (the Hillwood is $15 per adult), it is definitely worth a visit!

There are several more dresses and details to look at here.


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