Friday, September 18, 2009

Paper Dolls: the vintage paper dress

OK. I go through these little phases of obsession. For a while it was collecting vintage choker necklaces that had little flowers with a rhinestone center. Then it was 70s 8-track tape players. The list is endless, I won't bore you (today anyway. heh). S0 a while back I was fascinated with paper dresses. I tried to buy one on eBay but some crazy Greek bidder was literally buying EVERY SINGLE ONE. It became a "thing". I would find 5 or 6 of them on there....and Greek Paper Dress Magnate would inevitable outbid me and win ALL of them. I kept a mental tally and I swear this person accumulated about 45 of 'em in a short period. It drove me completely crazy and, of course, made me want one even more!! I was watching Project Runway last week and they had a paper dress challenge which reminded me of my old obsession.

The paper dress was actually the genius of the Scott Paper Company (yep, the same peeps who made paper towels and "facial tissue"). In 1966 they marketed the "disposable dress" and sold them for $1.25 in grocery stores to promote their new colored tissues. You also got a little stash of coupons for paper towel, along with your sassy A-line dressie. Scott didn't really mean for them to be taken seriously but ladies knew what was up and ordered them in droves. I mean how fun to "hem" your new dress with a pair of scissors??

Scott advertisers described the paper dress as "created to make you the conversation piece at parties. Smashingly different at dances or perfectly packaged at picnics. Wear it anytime...anywhere. Won't last forever...who cares? Wear it for kicks — then give it the air!"

How cute are the "sizes" in that above dress? "Eeny" "Meeny" and "Miney". Loves it!!

Scott stopped producing them after the first run (I think all the suits were a little freaked out by the success and declared they weren't in the "garment business"). No worries, lots of others companies jumped on the band wagon. Andy Warhol joined in with his famous Campbell's Soup Dress (the "Souper Dress") and even Richard Nixon created a paper dress for female supporters.

According to a Time Magazine article from 1967, "Sterling Paper believes in paper resort wear, the idea being that vacationers could buy paper clothes at the hotel when they arrive, throw them away when they depart, thus eliminating packing and carrying heavy luggage." Amazing! The rage lasted for several years longer with designers upping the ante creating full length gowns and mock paper "fur" coats. Fashionable "ready to tear" paper clothing died out as suddenly as it had appeared but remains a testament to the innovations of the 60s.

I'm still dying to know what that crazy Greek man was going to do with all those dresses though. Hmph.

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  1. This is a real great collection! I looove the paper dress concept! Thanks for the overview!

  2. Did you see the one on ebay yesterday that went for almost $400??? I was watching it out of mild curiosity -- so funny you posted this today! Simpatico, I tell ya... :)

  3. Oooh i wish I could see the name of the bidder....that sounds like the Greek Overlord of Paper Dressies!!! Too bad they have upped the security on ebay. I liked when you could see who was bidding!

  4. oh man, those are awesome! i don't really see the appeal in a paper dress haha but i can't say it isn't fun/creative!

  5. great post! though i'm kinda concerned about this paper being water proof and flame retardent.. until made wet!!

    i loved this: "Sterling Paper believes in paper resort wear, the idea being that vacationers could buy paper clothes at the hotel when they arrive, throw them away when they depart, thus eliminating packing and carrying heavy luggage." -- i guess they felt your pain lugging the old samsonites around too! hehe

  6. tee! we were just watching Project Runway and this was the challenge. An homage to the paper dress!

    What perfect timing, cuz I was about to goggle the shit out of it!


  7. you should have emailed the greek bidder to ask what the deal was?

    too bad we can't see who bids anymore... good for the buyer, bad for us snoopers.

    do you remember vin.diesel on ebay? vintage shoe hoarder extraordinaire.

  8. There was a guy like your Greek, but he collected every loud Lilly Pulitzer men's blazer. I used to keep tabs on a Lilly Pulitzer Discussion Board on eBay and one person saw a shop window and realized it was him. Do you think these people that get EVERY piece have an eBay-specific form of OCD? Do they put their max bids in at a million dollars and then just go about their days?

    Another cute story was this elementary school class was selling a Lilly blazer as a project; their teacher was teaching them about selling on eBay. The jacket had a long history, they had a name for it I've forgotten, but whenever a student was going out of town, they got temporary custody of the jacket. The auction told the whole story and listed all the places it had been. Of course I bid early and went up to $50.

    The class then sent me an "Ask Seller a Question" form to tell me that they really liked my About Me page (God I need to update that thing, it's like 6 or 7 years old now), and that I was their favorite bidder so far. I told them about jacket man, and sure enough, that sucker went for about $400.

    I am writing a book here. I think the Chantix is making me blabber uncontrollably!

  9. Shhhhh...may not want to approve this comment...Just read in W that will have a Campbell's Souper paper dress on sale as part of the F.I.T. exhibition....

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