This is probably the ultimate #DVD20 story!
Since 2005, loyal DVD Netflix member Joanna Wilson has saved all her red envelope flaps. She was originally intrigued by the unique texture of our famous red envelopes, noting that they seemed water-resistant (since they might have to withstand traveling through rain and snow during their USPS deliveries), so she thought, "This might make a cool craft project in the future. Maybe I’ll save a few of them."
Joanna started renting Netflix DVDs to use as research. She's the author of several books based on Christmas TV history. 13 years have passed since she started collecting the envelope flaps, and as of this spring, she had over 1,500 of them!
We've been celebrating our 20th anniversary this year and our members have been sharing photos of their mailers and stories of their DVD Netflix memories with #DVD20 on social media.
Joanna’s stunningly large pile of envelopes immediately stood out in our Instagram feed, so we reached out to her.
She mentioned a most interesting idea – her dream of turning her massive collection of red envelopes into a fabulous DVD dress.
Collecting 1,500+ DVD Netflix envelopes is definitely eye-catching, and it caught the eye of the news, too! News station WKYC Channel 3 - Cleveland ran a story on her:
After we agreed to sponsor the dress, Joanna began searching for a dress designer, someone with a unique creative vision that could design and create her dream DVD dress. That person turned out to be Kent State University fashion design student Alyssa Hertz. We interviewed the DVD dress duo to learn more about this fantastic project and the journey it’s taken them on.
1. Joanna, how long have you been a Netflix DVD member and do you know exactly how many envelopes you've collected?
Joanna: I've been a Netflix DVD subscriber since 2005, researching and writing about Christmas on TV and film. I saved every discardable envelope front from the DVDs I received in the mail. In March, I had 1,556 of them, but I've received about a hundred more in the mail since!
I first started saving them because I noticed that the paper the DVDs where shipped in was an unusual texture – these envelopes have to endure being sent through the rain and the snow. I'm a crafty person and I imagined that one day I would upcycle them into an outfit or a dress. Now, 13 years later, I'm pleased my dream is finally coming true.
Thank you to photographer Keisha Lenee for the awesome photos!
2. Alyssa, how did you hear about this design opportunity and what made you want to take on this challenge? Joanna, why did you select Alyssa as the designer?
Alyssa: I first heard about this opportunity when a family friend, Angie Haprian, tagged me in Joanna’s Facebook post about it! She knew that I have enjoyed experimenting and working with unconventional materials and making them into elaborate dresses. I also got an email from the Kent State University Fashion School where I am a student, that explained the entire project. I just fell in love with the idea!
In high school, I did a few unconventional projects such as a newspaper dress, Styrofoam wedding gown, a faux flower dress, and a necklace made out of hardware. These projects each taught me more about myself than I could have imagined. I had missed working with unconventional materials my freshman year of college, so I jumped at the opportunity to do it again. I sent Joanna my online portfolio, met with her, and continued to fall in love with this incredible creative project.
Joanna: I selected Alyssa because she stood out from the crowd. She is articulate, confident, and she has a passion for fashion. She also impressed me with her past experiences working with non-traditional materials.
3. What was the process of designing this dress like?
Joanna: I knew our primary materials were going to be the red Netflix DVD paper envelopes, so I kept imagining what our red dress would look like. Scrolling through the Netflix DVD listings one day, I saw that the 1954 movie White Christmas was available – and instantly I remembered Rosemary Clooney's glamorous red dress in the finale of that movie. Rosemary is a classic Hollywood Christmas icon and the thought of taking our inspiration from her was thrilling!
Alyssa: As Joanna mentioned, she cleverly took into account the colors of the envelopes and her mind went to the red dress Rosemary Clooney wore in White Christmas. She mentioned the idea to me and I thought, “Why not?”
We had a meeting to discuss how we could take inspiration from this famous gown and decided on replacing the fur on the dress with white roses made from envelopes that I painted white, making slight changes to the neckline and sleeves, and adding a dramatic train to finish off this grand dress. We had two fittings while I worked on the project, and a final fitting after it was complete, which I couldn’t have been happier with.
I cannot even begin to count how many hours I spent on this from the middle of August to the beginning of October, or how many sticks of hot glue I used. I can, however, tell you how many envelopes and flowers I used in total! This dress has 526 paper flowers on it and I used a total of 693 DVD Netflix envelopes for the flowers and the dress itself! Another fun fact is that I spent so much time using my hot glue gun on this dress that near the end of the project, it actually caught fire. I had to buy a new one to finish the dress!
4. Can you give a basic step-by-step of how you made each component? The cut-out leaves and white flowers look lovely!
Alyssa: The entire dress is based off of a single design, manipulated in many ways. That design is a small strip of paper, folded over itself into a sort of twist. I made hundreds and hundreds of them, which is what covers the entire bodice.
For the flowers, I took that same small twist and made two different sizes. The smaller size was the middle of the flower and the larger size was the outside of the flower. I took the smaller twist, made a stem at the beginning of the strip, and simply twisted it around itself, gluing as I went. I then added the thicker layer to give the flower more dimension and to make it look like it had rose petals of sorts!
As for the skirt, I took this basic idea of a small twist, and kept enlarging it. At the top of the skirt, the strips are still small to blend the bodice and the skirt smoothly. Then I started to cut thicker strips and fold them in the same manner. I kept cutting thicker and thicker strips until I just started gluing whole envelopes together to create the largest strips I used. These were at the very bottom of the skirt and also make up the entire train.
5. What was it like to finally wear it out, Joanna?
Joanna: I had been channeling my inner Rosemary Clooney for months, so when we were invited to come to the Rosemary Clooney House museum in Augusta, KY, with the dress, we jumped at the opportunity and made the 275-mile trek.
It was a gorgeous autumn day in October and the small, charming downtown of Augusta was celebrating their Fall Festival. Rosemary's former residence also houses the world's largest collection of White Christmas movie memorabilia, so photographing the dress among these items felt amazing!
When we (Alyssa, our photographer Keisha Lenee, myself, and two additional helpers) were photographing the dress, we found ourselves the center of attention from the other museum patrons and outside the museum, from the neighbors and festival attendees! Everyone wanted to come up to the dress, touch it, and ask us about it.
It was so exciting to see so many people interested in our project and want to know the motivation behind making the Netflix DVD paper dress. I felt a little shy wearing the dress and posing for photos with strangers, but I'm also proud of the work Alyssa accomplished and honored that people find this project as fascinating as I do. This has been an unforgettable experience.
6. Anything else you'd like to add about the dress and this whole journey?
Joanna: Getting the opportunity to wear a glamorous dress made from the packaging of my research materials seems like a beautiful tribute. This dress couldn't "fit" anyone but me. I want to wish Netflix DVD a happy 20th anniversary and offer my thanks for helping me achieve my dream of making a piece of wearable art. I'm also grateful to the people at the Rosemary Clooney House museum in Augusta, KY for accommodating us. The whole experience has been an exciting adventure!
Alyssa: Making this dress was an incredible experience, and it pushed me to create something I never dreamed I would make. It taught me a lot about myself, and a lot about what I want to be as a designer in the future. Experimenting with a new material with every unconventional dress I create is an incredible adventure, and this dress was no exception. I feel very thankful and blessed that I was given the opportunity to continue to show the world what I love.