My husband sent me a nifty link to vintage Consumer Report photos. From the 1930s through the 1970s, you can see such forward thinking (or “what were they thinking) products as a record player for your car, motorized scouring pads, instant button on, and radio sunglasses. But the thing that caught my attention was the photo of a Paper Dress. Yep, a garment made of paper (more like the texture of a dried out baby wipe actually) by the Scott paper company (yes, the paper towel people).
Now, believe it or not, I’ve actually owned a paper bathing suit. That sounds ridiculous (and it was to some degree) but it was like a waxed tablecloth – something water resistant but meant for only one wearing. I bought it on a vacation when I had forgotten my suit for the pool (or rather, my mom bought it – I think I was about 12 or so). I remember that two piece; it was blue and white houndstooth pattern and I thought it was so funny (and somewhat novel) at the time.
Apparently, novel is another term for space age. At least that is what Paper Dress makers thought in the 1960s. Shift dresses were available for a dollar from Scott Paper. Designers actually were working in paper and large department stores like Sak’s, Gimble’s and Lord & Taylor had Paper departments. Paper hats, dresses, slippers, earrings, wedding dresses and pillow cases…nothing was off limits.
Now, wearing paper would certainly cut down on laundry and facing a big stack of washing makes that idea seem a bit appealing, but I can’t really imagine how this fad ever took off. Paper costumes are noisy, drafty and can tear so easily – not to mention the risk of fire. In the end, according to a Collector’s Guide to fashions from the 50s and 60s, it was the flammability that was the demise of the paper dress – not any of the other drawbacks.
Still – I wonder how long it will be before these disposable garments resurface as the latest and greatest. They’ll be made from recycled materials, no doubt, and the inks will be made from soy or something else earth-friendly. They will be sturdy, reusable and cheap – the perfect outfit for the common (wo)man – or so the advertisers will say.
Actually, this probably already exists. I’m probably just behind the times.