For most people, the idea of wearing paper clothes brings to mind awkward doctors visits and drafty, shapeless smocks that rip with the slightest movement. However, during the height of "mod" style in the mid 1960s, paper apparel was on the forefront of clothing innovations!
These garments were made out of paper-like cellulose reinforced with nonwoven rayon so that they would be more rip-resistant and hang naturally. They were easily trimmed to fit or painted to achieve a customized look. Best of all, they could be simply thrown away if they got ripped or stained. No laundry was necessary! Young people loved the convenience and saw disposable paper clothing as a step closer to the space age of the future.
The Scott Paper Company unexpectedly began the trend in 1966. For mailing in $1, they advertised, housewives could receive coupons and a simple yet colorful "Paper Caper" dress. When over half a million orders came pouring in did they realize what had been started.
Red Paisley "Paper Caper" by the Scott Company
Soon, soap companies and department stores alike were selling lines of paper garments. The Hallmark company created "hostess" dresses that coordinated with paper napkins and tablecloths.
"Holly" Party Fashions Dress by the Hallmark Company
Kits were sold that allowed housewives to make their own paper clothes with just a few simple seams. High end fashion designers created couture paper looks that sold for as much as $1000! Pop artists such as Andy Warhol were also quick to embrace paper clothing as it was yet another facet of mass consumerism.
"The Souper Dress" by Campbell's Soup, inspired by Andy Warhol
But as quickly as the trend began, so it ended before the 1970s. Not only were the paper garments fire hazards, but the hippie movement was turning attention towards environmental concerns. As cool and "space-age" as disposable fashion had seemed at first, the novelty paled when the reality of wastefulness set in.
However, paper garments did maintain their appeal in several fields such as medicine. While not quite as fashionable, paper hospital gowns and surgical garments are still being made and used. Recycled materials and "greener" processes make them more environmental friendly while still offering convenience and quick disposability.
...perhaps next time I have to go to the doctor's I'll bring along a marker and draw a can of soup on the paper dress they give me...
For more vintage paper fashions visit: http://www.designgallery.wisc.edu/exhibits/paperdresses/crazyman.htmlhttp://www.vintageconnection.net/PaperDresses.htm