Ryan Novelline transforms children’s books into fashion

[Sami Jensen] If someone were to say “Golden Books,” I would immediately recall images of the shiny golden spines and colorful pages from The Poky Little Puppy, Mother Goose or the assorted Disney Golden Books I read as a child. Ryan Novelline looked at them and saw a couture gown. Maybe I’m just not thinking outside-the-box enough.

A Boston-based fine artist and designer, Novelline says, “My first love has always been for drawing, but we have an open relationship that allows me to experiment with other types of art.” This includes sewing together the pages and spines of old Golden Books into a gorgeous gown fit for Cinderella.

The project was born out of a conversation between Novelline and his mother. As they discussed the unfortunately short lifespans of children’s books, Novelline began to wonder how he could revive the emotional impact Golden Books had on him as a child. As a band T-shirt reminds the wearer of emotions felt while listening to music, the Golden Books gown preserves Novelline’s sentimentality toward his favorite children’s books.

The nine-day process involved creating a mockup from newspapers and lots of finagling of Novelline’s sewing machine. Says the artist, “The gold thread was a true challenge. It is regular cotton thread wrapped into a tiny metal coil that caught itself in the machine every 10 inches or so and needed to be rethreaded about every 45 seconds. The whole ordeal was a massive undertaking that I never analyzed formally until much later.  My body was so numb by the end, but the reactions immediately vindicated the effort.”

According to Novelline’s website, the gown has a surface area of 22,000 square inches. The skirt is made entirely from illustrations from various Golden Books sewn together with the fussy metallic gold thread, and the bodice was constructed from the books’ golden foil spines. It definitely kicks the butt of every duct tape dress I’ve ever seen.

Ryan Novelline describes himself as an “alchemist” who spends his free time in search of the extraordinary. Notable design clients include Walt Disney Imagineering, GAP, Harvard University and Digication. His Golden Books gown has been internationally recognized, and his most recent work includes illustrating Dance of Spring, a children’s book authored by his mother.

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