Paper clothing

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"Souper Dress". American paper dress, 1967, based on Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans paintings. Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation (2005.6.396)

Paper clothing, in the form of women's dresses and other clothes made from disposable cellulose fabric, was a short-lived fashion novelty item in the United States in the 1960s.[1]

Individual paper and papier-mâché clothes and accessories (especially masquerade costumes) were used as early as the 19th century. But mass-produced paper fashion was invented by the American Scott Paper Company in 1966 as a marketing stunt. Customers could send in a coupon and $1.25 to receive a dress made of "Dura-Weve", a cellulose material patented in 1958.[1]

These "Paper Caper" dresses, which featured a red bandanna print or a black and white op art pattern, kicked off a fashion craze. 500,000 of them were produced, and other manufacturers soon followed suit. By 1967, paper dresses were sold in major department stores for about $8 apiece, and entire paper clothing boutiques were set up by companies such as Abraham & Straus and I. Magnin. At the height of demand, Mars Hosiery made 100,000 dresses a week.[1] Other items made of paper included underwear, men's vests, bridal gowns (expensive at $15), children's pinafores ("just the thing for ever-sprouting sprouts") and even rain coats and bikinis ("good for two to three wearings").[2] Among the novel materials used for such clothes were "Kaycel" by Kimberly-Stevens (93% cellulose and 7% nylon, "fire resistant unless washed"), "Ree-may" by Du Pont (a "spunbonded" polyester) and "Webril" by Kendall (a nonwoven rayon).[2]

The paper dress captured the vibrant, youthful, optimistic and consumerist zeitgeist of 1960s America so precisely that the fashion press speculated about paper garments taking over the entire clothes market. The dresses were whimsical, often featuring eye-catching pop art-like patterns, shapes for the customer to crayon in or advertisements (such as the "Souper Dress" featuring Andy Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans"). And they were just one of many newly disposable items – like cutlery, plates, pens, lighters and razors – embraced by consumers; the "Paper Caper" sales pitch ran: "Won't last forever…who cares? Wear it for kicks—then give it the air." [1]

But as the novelty appeal of paper clothes wore off, their downsides became more apparent: they were generally ill-fitting and uncomfortable to wear, their garish colors could rub off, they were often flammable, and of course they very soon ended up as waste. By 1968, paper clothing had disappeared from the market.[1]

While no longer encountered in mass-market fashion, the cellulose fabrics once used to make paper clothes are still employed to make disposable garments for work environments, such as hospital gowns, scrubs, and coveralls. The paper dresses of the 1960s also still inspire contemporary fashion designers, including Yeohlee and Vivienne Tam, who have on occasion incorporated paper into their designs.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Paton, Kathleen (2005). "Paper dresses". In Steele, Valerie. Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. 3. Thomson Gale. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0-684-31394-4. 
  2. ^ a b "Fashion: Real Live Paper Dolls". Time Magazine. March 17, 1967. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cunningham, P. A. & Lab, S. V (Ed.). Dress and popular culture (Popular Press, 1991) pp. 85-105.
  • Walford, Jonathan (2007). Ready to tear : paper fashions of the 60s. [Fonthill, Ont.]: Kickshaw Productions. ISBN 0978223004. 
  • Zidianakis, Vassilis (2007). Rrripp!! Paper Fashion. ATOPOS Foundation. ISBN 978-960-89637-1-9. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Paper clothing at Wikimedia Commons