Photo courtesy of Carrie Ann Schumacher

Unwearable dresses, formed from the pages of romance novels, challenge the unobtainable ideal of feminine perfection in a fall exhibit at Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery.

Carrie Ann Schumacher’s exhibit, “Build Her a Myth,” examines the demands feminine culture places upon women. The exhibit is based on the notion that women define themselves through clothing, using appearance to project ambition, attract mates, and signal social status.

“Fashion magazines become the bibles that guide the creation of self-image,” Ms. Schumacher said. “Generation after generation of females have been programmed to buy into this culture of unrealistic beauty.”

Ms. Schumacher, a Chicago-based multi-media artist, said romance novels amplify the illusion, presenting an alternate reality where love is all-consuming and eternally passionate.

“Fashion is advertised as a way to obtain this false reality,” Ms. Schumacher said.

”Build Her a Myth” challenges that notion through fashion that is aesthetically pleasing but too fragile to function in the real world.

“The dresses are seductively beautiful, but due to the material from which they are created, unable to be worn,” Ms. Schumacher said.

Without function, the dresses represent the idea that the myth of feminine perfection is useless in real life.

“Build Her a Myth” runs Oct. 21 through Dec. 4. An opening reception is planned from 4 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 21.