The Paper Dress - History of a Ready to Tear Invention
In 1966, Scott Paper Company invented the paper dress, intended as a marketing tool. For one dollar, women could buy the dress and also receive coupons for Scott paper products. The paper dress, shapeless and unattractive, wasn't an invention meant to be taken seriously, but women surprised the company by ordering half a million of these dresses in under a year. It might sound surprising to us, but when you remember that this was a time in history that had just gotten used to disposable cutlery, plates and diapers, this new fashion was appealing. People were demanding more convenience and instant gratification. What was more instantly gratifying than a dress you could hem yourself with only a pair of scissors, or a dress that could simply be thrown out if it got dirty?
As the trend took off, companies began to experiment with style and fabric, adding other materials to the paper to make a sturdier garment that could even be washed. Mars Manufacturing Company invented a wide range of paper dresses, from a basic A-line style to a paper evening dress to a full paper wedding gown, all for under $20. Other companies followed suit, inventing such things as paper slippers, paper bell-bottom suits and waterproofed paper raincoats and bikinis. There was even a paper dress invented that grew herbs when water was added. In their short history, paper dresses became more stylish than the original, patterned with '60s paisley and psychedelic prints. Some paper dresses were sold that could be decorated by the consumer. Even Andy Warhol got in on the trend, creating a design based on his famous Campbell's soup can print.
Paper dresses sounded like the next great invention - convenient, cheap and fashionable. So why aren't they around today? It certainly wasn't for lack of marketing. 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." Paper dresses were also lauded in fashion magazines of the times. However, the physical limitations of a dress made from paper were too great to large up to critical acclaim. Despite efforts to invent a durable paper-based fabric, the dresses ripped too easily. Also, though some dresses had chemicals added to prevent them catching fire, repeated washings removed this protection.
Only a few years after the invention of the paper dress, the fad had become obsolete. It remains, however, a testament to the innovation of the '60s, a period in history known for its willingness to take risks and be daring.
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Our Guest Blogger, Samantha Marcelo, is a freelance and fiction writer living in Calgary, Alberta. Samantha has a keen interest in all things history-related, and wanted to share some remarkable historical inventions with the readers of InventorSpot.com