Bookworms, we have found the prom/wedding/fancy-night-out dress of your dreams. Library technician Tami Troutt was just trying to help attract teens to the Simi Valley Library in California for the summer, but her creation — made of more than 1,000 book pages and 160 cover images — may end up attracting grown-up fashion followers as well.
Simi Valley’s teen librarian, Michael Whitehead, found the idea for the dress on Pinterest and asked his colleague if she thought she could do something similar. “I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, I can do that,’” Troutt told Yahoo Style. She learned how to sew in high school and continued to do it as a hobby, which was enough to give her the confidence for a task straight out of a Project Runway episode.
After sketching out her own design, Troutt decided to use a McCall’s pattern for a junior prom dress with a sweetheart neckline and an asymmetrical skirt. “I added the straps because I wanted to make sure it stayed on the mannequin and also wanted to add the rose details,” she explained.
Troutt and Whitehead decided to make the theme of the dress “Girl Power,” and she found the perfect book with which to make most of it: Allegiant, the final book in Veronica Roth’s badass dystopian trilogy, Divergent. Not only was the book about a powerful teenage girl, but the library had received two extra donation copies that were relatively new and in good shape.
“They were just going to be sitting in storage until we needed them, so the teen library allowed me to rip them up and destroy them for the greater good,” said Troutt, who used almost all of both 526-page copies. “Being a library person, it’s very hard to rip up a book. It was like, ‘Nooo, you can’t do this!’ But there’s also something very releasing. It gets out your anger.”
Troutt sewed the first layer of the dress with fabric, and then glued the die-cut flowers from the book pages to the bodice and skirt. Rather than rip the covers off of another 160 books to make the gown’s colorful train, she printed them from the Internet. They include everything from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights to a biography of Michelle Obama — all books by or about strong women.
The project took Troutt more than 10 weeks to complete; she often worked on it at the library whenever she had a few spare minutes. Though there are a few details that wouldn’t pass muster with Tim Gunn — it’s unlined, the seams are unfinished, and she opted for Velcro in the back instead of a zipper — it is a wearable, size 6 dress.
“One of our library assistants is trying to steal it from me,” Troutt said, but it’s not going anywhere for a while. The well-read mannequin and her dress, dubbed “Babs” after Tuck Everlasting author Natalie Babbitt, is on display at the library until Aug. 4.
“We are going to keep her around,” she said. “We’ll probably reinvent her. We might change the books on the back to fit a different theme. All the work that went into it, I really don’t want to destroy it. That would break my heart.”
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