Paper Dresses

Paper Dresses and Accessories 

Born and raised on the cosmopolitan and bustling Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, Sonya conveys the island’s fusion of color and abundance of artistic and cultural expressions with her PAPER DRESSES – each dress is entirely handmade from paper. Crediting her earliest influence to her mother’s creativity as an artist and costume maker. These intricately made PAPER DRESSES are yet another example of Sonya’s everyday work, transforming that which others see as ordinary into the sublime and extraordinary.

“When I make a piece, I create something that has never existed before, whether it’s found objects transformed into a mixed media assemblage, a photograph, or a piece of jewelry or fashions formed from recycled materials. I am always hopeful that through the process of excavating, discovering, and exposing my life’s influences and experiences, my art connects people, bringing understanding and perspectives that have the potential to challenge norms and expectations. ” – Sonya Sanchez Arias

Recycled Paper & Plastic Dresses


All of my recycled art usually begins with a nagging thought, prompted by current affairs, a quote or a personal challenge. I certainly don’t pretend to have have any of the answers, but through a process of excavation and experimentation each new piece, helps me explore options for closure, and creates a deeper understanding of the topic at hand. Using discarded, recycled and alternative materials allows me to challenge the concept of beauty – for beauty to have meaning, it often needs to have a flip side of darkness.  

Hopefully when you look closely at these dresses they will inspire you to think of the “possibilities ” of recycling plastics and other materials. Reminding you that many of the used materials that would ordinarily be thoughtlessly discarded, have the potential to be repurposed and transformed into something really beautiful with an entirely new reason for existing. One thing is certain, we all need to do our part and start thinking about the possibilities and potentials for alternative futures using materials that already exist all around us.  – Sonya Sanchez Arias

Mother Earth/Africa Adorned Paper Dress (made entirely from paper and twine)

“The roots we have with mother nature run deep. We need never feel lost or alone, for we are one with all living things around us.”

Mother Earth is fierce, tribal, beautiful but deadly, mother-creator and protector. Her dress is made entirely out of paper and twine.
Her skin is dark like the rich soil from which all life comes. She wears a white dress that is beautifully textured, ethereal, the color of purity, wholeness, innocence, new beginnings, awakening, openness, the color of possibilities – but it is also extremely fragile.
The twine represents the glue, the roots, that sew, knot, and tie things together, it represents repair. Always mending and taking things that are damaged, broken fragmented, and making them whole again. Always giving us hope for healing, awakening, and possibilities.

Trinidad And Tobago Paper Dress (made entirely from recycled paper)

Who Am I?

I am not a European.
I am not an African.
I am not an Indian.
I am not Chinese or Syrian.
I am not an Amerindian.
I am not an American, North or South.
I am none of these.

I am a Caribbean.

I am a rare hybrid.
I am a richly textured, multi-layered creature.
I am precious as a pearl.
The world is my oyster.
I see the world clearly from my island vantage.
I do not harbor the vanities of a big city dweller or someone from a vast continent.
I am at the tip of the spear that leads into the future.

I am a Caribbean.

They say the Caribbean is a sea.
All the waters of humanity wash my shores.
I am a Caribbean.
– Peter Minshall

The Trinidad and Tobago Dress is made entirely out of recycled papers in 4 colors.

Antarctica Paper Dress (originally made entirely from paper 2019 version remade to include plastics)

“I want to visit the snow in Antarctica before global warming turns it into a tropical paradise.” – Steven Magee
If Antarctica were music she would be Mozart. Art – she would be Michelangelo. Literature –  she would be Shakespeare.
And yet she is something even greater; she is the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame her, or diminish her purity and beauty.”
Antarctica’s dress is made from paper, miscellaneous recycled plastics, her headpiece is made from foil, and bicycle spokes, and broken plastics, her purse is made from an outdoor light cover. She is embellished with thousands of hand-cut and hand-punched paper snowflakes.
Antarctica – beautiful, pure, fragile, vulnerable, and wild. A place of great beauty and wonder. Her frozen wilderness is captivating. A continent that few of us will ever visit, but on whose continued health we all depend.

Dorian Gray Dress (made entirely from recycled plastics)

“Behind any exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic” – Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. 

The dress is named “Dorian Gray” because, for me, she very much represents the conflict between the usefulness and ugliness of single-use plastics. The “Beauty” and the underlying “Beast” of the problem. Coincidentally, many of the materials that I used to make this gown were collected from leftover supplies from hurricane Dorian.

Her dress is made out of garbage bags, plastic straws, and other miscellaneous recycled materials. The corset is made from 500 plastic drinking straws, the skirt is constructed from 50 garbage bags and decorated with flowers fashioned out of 150 plastic water bottles. Plastic forks, spoons, and Brillo pads, and other found objects were also used to make embellishments and accessories.

In his novel, Wilde instructs the readers that the true beauty of one’s inner soul would be destroyed by their own selfishness; if they only follow their thirst for pleasure. The thing human beings must admire is not just their desire, but their innocent soul and inner nature. The “Dorian Gray” dress is both exquisite and tragic and represents our “love-hate” relationship with plastics, and how addicted we are to its conveniences without consideration of the consequences, dangers, and damage that these single-use plastics also create.

‘Art Couture’ Exhibition

Behind the scenes images of my recycled dresses at the ART COUTURE exhibition at the Cornell Museum