When I first started this blog, I was an unemployed costumer attempting to create period gowns and costumes with very limited means. Although now employed, I still try to be as thrifty as possible. I am still "The Broke Costumer"!

In addition to posts about the outfits I make on a budget, this blog includes short research articles on fashion, history, accessories, styles, or whatever interests me at the moment.

I hope you enjoy my journey into the land of inexpensive costuming and short articles.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

1960s Paper Dresses

 During a Pinterest surfing session, I came across this interesting, colorful ad from Hallmark. A PAPER dress?

The copy reads:  “Surprise!  A new paper dress with a party to match!  The invitation matches the party centerpiece. The centerpiece matches the plates, cups and napkins. The table settings match the snack bowls.  The snack bowls match the gift wrap on the party gift. The gift wrap matches the bridge tallies, table covers and matchbooks. And the whole flower fantasy matches your swinging new party dress."

I had to look into this!

These dresses were a simple, knee length shift, (which could be cut shorter as desired) constructed from non-woven cellulose tissue reinforced with rayon or nylon. The "paper" dress usually featured bold printed designs and was meant to be thrown out after a few wearings.             
My guess is they were probably similar to dryer sheets or dried out makeup remover cloths.  I have read them as being compared to dry Handi-Wipes.
Scott Paper Company created these dresses in 1966 when it introduced two new paper dresses as premiums to promote its new line of "Color Explosion" paper products. The company printed its two dresses with gift wrap designs — one a black and white pop art pattern and the other an orange-red, yellow, and black paisley print.   Right are the Paper Caper dresses.

"Scott's dresses, sold as "Paper Caper" products, were not purely paper, but an "un-paper" that the Scott company called Dura Weve. This consisted of 93 percent paper-napkin stock reinforced with rayon webbing, a combination that made the material more durable than standard paper and gave it a more fabric-like drape. The dresses came in the two prints, four sizes, but only one style — an A-line shift cut from two pieces with no sleeves and a patch pocket on the hip. Customers who purchased the dresses paid $1.25 and received coupons for Scott's toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins." Source  Scott did not produce the dresses for long, but other companies stepped up.  A quick look on google search came up with some of these companies, which used the dresses for advertising.

Yellow Pages.   Fill out the coupon and send in $1.00.
Johnston’s Pies.  Only $1.25!
Break hair products.   Send in a box top and $1.00  and get a groovy dress!
Campbells Soup Dress.  Send in 2 soup labels and $1.00 Candy bars.   Send in a candy wrapper and $1.25 for a Baby Ruth or Butterfinger dress

Within a year of Scott's promotion, paper fashions were on sale in major department stores. Some, such as Abraham & Strauss and I. Magnin, created entire paper clothing boutiques. At the height of the craze, Mars Hosiery of Asheville, N.C., was reportedly manufacturing 100,000 dresses a week.     link

By 1967, Mars Manufacturing Company of Asheville was the nation's leading producer of paper dresses, selling 80,000 to 100,000 a week. From its basic A-line shift, the company expanded its line to include bell-bottom jump suits, evening gowns, aprons, men's vests, children's dresses and even bathing suits.  

Some of my favorites are portrait dresses.  These include musicians such as the Beatles and Bob Dylan.
Politicians like Bobby Kennedy, Humphrey, McCarthy, Rockefeller, Reagan, and Nixon were also printed on dresses during election time. 

FIDM of course has a great article on paper dresses.  Read here    This photo is from the FIDM site.  An advertisement for Poster dresses, the latest in London wear.

 TWA debuted paper stewardess serving dresses in 1968 to reflect the regional cuisine that was being served onboard. The four styles included “British wench,” “French cocktail,” “Roman toga,” and “Manhattan penthouse pajamas.” These dresses were made of a fabric-like paper that’s a little tougher than the paper you write on. “They were disposable so the flight attendants would only wear them once or twice.”   source

LOVE this one on the left.

Right is Actress/Model Jane Asher, Paul McCartney's former fiance, in her paper dress.

 Well known fashion designers also jumped on paper couture.

Right, Wastebasket dress by Massimo Vignelli (1968)

Left, Paper dress by Sylvia Ayton and Zandra Rhodes (1966)

 Right, Oleg Cassini for Baby Magic lotion.  A maternity dress, and party-after-the-baby dress.  These were pricey.  $4.50 each!  

Following are some photos of how they were packaged.

 By 1969 paper dresses had lost their appeal. Wearers found they could be ill-fitting and uncomfortable, the printed surfaces could rub off, and there were concerns about flammability and excessive post-consumer waste. Plus, they had simply lost their cutting-edge appeal due to overexposure.   Form fitting, body conscience fashions were on the rise, and the paper dress faded away.


  1. Thank you for sharing these! I had heard of the "paper dress" phenomenon, and wondered how they worked. Some of the prints are quite attractive; I especially like the psychedelic ones! Kind of a shame to throw them away, but I can't imagine them being at all comfortable to wear...kind of like today's hospital gown.

    Was this the beginning of "disposable fashion", or merely the logical extreme of a concept we already had?

  2. Oh man, I remember these! They had them out during my junior high school years. but they wouldn't let us wear them because they were afraid they would tear. They felt like stiff paper towels to me, and were scratchy.
    This was also when we couldn't wear pants or shorts, but could wear culottes with a panel in front so it looked like a skirt, and the same time the Tent Dresses came out, which were butt ugly. Only one girl in the school, who was an odd duck, wore one.

  3. I was 13 or 14 at the time and don't remember these. I'm surprised because my mom was a pattern maker and very much into fashion.

  4. Showing my age. I remember these, one of my friends in school got one as a birthday gift that year

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. I don't remember these at all. Glad I found an ad and explored :)

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. We have one from 1969 made as a promotion for the movie studio Twentieth century Fix with the logos for all the upcoming movies on it

    1. I would love to see it someday!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. And obviously I meant the dress was from Twentieth Century FOX movie studio, not fix

    4. Here are some photos of the paper dress used to advertise films from Twentieth Century-Fox that were to be released in 1970 or later.

      Overall dress:

      Detail of the Tom Swift film logo:

      Manufacturer tag: