Newsprint prom dresses: What they're wearing in Detroit

In March, The Detroit Free Press announced a $500 contest for high school students to design prom dresses from newsprint. On Sunday it announced eight finalists.

The fact that there are fewer home-delivered print editions of the Free Press with which to make the dresses hasn't seemed to slow anyone down. An extensive slideshow shows off the dresses, which are supercool -- Ari Diaz' painted dress, for instance, and Ashley Hicks' complex dress made from advertising circulars -- but the stories behind the dresses, collected in Sunday's story introducing the finalists, are more fun.

Mollie Ribar and Nikki Pilot's dress, for instance, got torn when an "aggressively driving friend" helped them get it to the Freep's offices. "After a few frantic minutes of taping in the Free Press lobby," Krista Jahnke writes, "the dress looked as good as new. Whew!" (Diane Weiss/Detroit Free Press)

Atiyah Anderson made her dress in three days. And if Emily Bankes wins, "she will buy a dress with the money for next year's prom, since she's not going this year, and use a bit for her creative pursuits, too."

Most of the dresses are wearable; a few feature the Free Press' masthead prominently. (Also, journalism-tools nerds will appreciate the neat voting interface.)

Newspaper dresses have a long history that even a fashion nincompoop like me can shake out of some Internet searches: The Kansas Historical Society has a picture from 1902 of Minnie Biglin dressed as "Miss Newspaper" in a costume made of muslin with The Alta Vista Journal printed on it. Paper dresses were a brief mod fad in the 1960s and die-hard "Sex and the City" fans will remember the John Galliano "newspaper dress" from Season 3. But wait! Here is a gallery of newspaper dresses.

Oh, and thank you, Internet: instructions for making your own (1, 2).

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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