Paper Clothing

In 1965, an engineer at the Scott Paper Company asked his wife to design a simplistic dress made out of duraweave fabric that could be presentable to buyers in a department store. Unfortunately, the garment failed to arouse any interest until 1966.[1]

In 1966, the Scott Paper Company ran a promotional campaign for its new line of disposable tableware. This promotion was meant to attract people to Scott’s new color explosion paper line that made paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper. However, it had an unexpected response where they received over five hundred thousand orders for their designs.[2]

For $1.25, a customer could purchase one of two dress designs that would be shipped to them accompanied by a fifty-two-cent voucher for paper products.[3]

The idea exploded so much that fashion designers started to get into the fad, and even Andy Warhol joined in. A Brooklyn department store hired Warhol to launch a line of plain white dresses to be sold with paint brushes and watercolor paints. Campbell Soup Company even sold dresses with Warhol’s soup can design on them.[4]

The Wadsworth Anthem held a paper ball. Paper dress fashion events became a thing. Richard Nixon, George Romney, Robert Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, and Pier Trudeau all used paper dresses to some extent in their political campaigns. Joan Kennedy, the Duchess of Windsor, and even the Beatles were all seen wearing paper clothing at some point.[5]

Companies even designed disposable paper vacation clothing. The idea was that travelers wouldn’t have to pack a lot of clothing and could simply pick up what they needed at their destination. At the end of the trip, they would throw the paper clothing away.

In May 1967, Time magazine reported that “paper clothing, apparently, is here to stay.” That, however, was not the case. The problem with paper clothes was that they ballooned out in unpredictable places, tore easily, and, maybe most importantly, cost too much to replace constantly. By 1970, the fad was dead.[6]

[1] Hunter Oatman-Stanford, “From Hospital Gowns to Paper Couture: The Unlikely Origins of ’60s Disposable Dresses”, Collectors Weekly, January 25, 2017.
[2] Kathleen Paton, “Paper Dresses,” Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion 3 (2005).
[3] Kathleen Paton, “Paper dresses”.
[4] Susan Tailman, “‘Fragile,’ ‘Souper’ and POP! The Atopos Paper Fashion Collection”, Art in Print, 4 (3).
[5] Hunter Oatman-Stanford, “From Hospital Gowns to Paper Couture: The Unlikely Origins of ’60s Disposable Dresses”.
[6] Olivia Horsfall Turner, “Paper Dress”, In Penner, Barbara; Forty, Adrian; Horsfall Turner, Olivia; Critchley, Miranda (eds.), Extinct: A Compendium of Obsolete Objects, (London: Reaktion Books, 2021) p. 237–240.


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