Wrapped in Fashion – the Paper Dress

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Project Runway SPOILER ALERT!

Folks in media are constantly speculating on the death of print. Ironically, one of the most collectible garments in vintage fashion is the the paper dress. Last night’s Project Runway was such a thrill to watch because the designers were challenged to design a dress made of Los Angeles Times newspapers. Booth Moore, Los Angeles Times fashion critic, was a guest.

Tim Gunn gave a brief fashion history lesson on the paper dress – Project Runway contestants always seem short on their history knowledge don’t they?

In 1966, Scott Paper Company created a paper dress as a marketing tool. For one dollar, women could buy the dress and receive coupons for Scott products. No one could’ve predicted the popularity of this new and practical fad. Even Andy Warhol joined the paper dress craze with his famous Campbell’s soup print dress.

In my interview with Katy Kane, Katy revealed her affection for vintage paper dresses. She owns a few collectible examples and is always looking for more parchment frocks. My friend and vintage colleague, Jonathan Walford, co founder of the Fashion History Museum in Guelph, Canada, wrote a must read book about vintage paper dress titled Ready to Tear: Paper Fashions of the 60s. In the book, Jonathan explains the history of the paper dress, which we associate with the 1960s, but actually can be traced to the 1800s.

An image of a paper raincoat from the 1920s caught my eye, especially after watching Irina win tonight’s Project Runway challenge with her stunning trench coat.

Like this week’s Project Runway show, creating something wearable out of paper takes risk, creativity, and innovation. Proof positive that the last time we saw something new in fashion design was up until the mid 20th century.

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9 comments

1 alexandra keller { 09.18.09 at 6:56 am }

I haven’t finished watching it, but no worries. I’m gald Irina won – I think she’s kinda cool. I’m also watching season two again, for when I get the PR itch and it isn’t Thursday night :)

2 Catwalk Creative Vintage { 09.19.09 at 4:30 am }

Brilliant post! I very much enjoyed reading about paper frocks (you write so well), and your photos are super too. Thanks for sharing the info. :)

3 WendyB { 09.26.09 at 7:26 pm }

I’ve always wanted a paper dress. I think I’d just frame it and put it on the wall though.

4 Amelia { 09.28.09 at 5:32 pm }

Your blog is a new discovery for me- LOVE it! Fabulous post on paper dresses. Project Runway killed the paper dress challenge, imo.

5 Sandra { 09.28.09 at 9:46 pm }

So glad you found it! Thanks for reading =*

6 39th & Broadway { 10.02.09 at 9:30 am }

Love Tim Gunn! These pics are great. But why did this episode seem very familiar to me? Flashbacks from design school history class or did PR do this before?

7 Ingrid Mida { 12.11.09 at 11:37 am }

I was trying to find Jonathan’s book when I came across your post. I too have a fascination for paper dresses especially since I work with paper in my art practice. How lucky you are to have him as a friend!

8 Cynthia Shafer { 01.21.10 at 1:59 pm }

Any idea where to buy a plain paper dress

9 Pat { 09.22.10 at 5:47 pm }

I have a vintage shop.I have over 1000 pieces of women and mens clothing. Along with hats, shoes, purses and other accessories.
I have clothing from 1880 through 1980. I also have paper dresses.
I love reading, learning and talking about vintage. It’s my passion and nice to see someone else passionate about vintage.

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