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Paper dresses just won’t go away

An origami dress by the artist Amlla Hrustic.
An origami dress by the artist Amlla Hrustic.

Paper dresses are they art, an economic answer to staying trendy on a limited budget, or just wasteful consumption?

The paper dress made its debut in 1966. It was not conceived by a fashion designer but was the brainchild of the marketing department of the Scott Paper Company. The dresses sold for $1.25. The company sold thousands of the dress. What began as a publicity stunt became a must have fashion item. Clothing manufactures began making them and major department stores were selling them for as little as $8. Typically the dress could be worn 2 or 3 times. A fashionista on a limited budget could afford to not wear the same dress twice. The enthusiasm was short lived and by 1968 the paper dress was a fashion has-been. Although dismissed by women shoppers, the paper dress refused to go away. They no longer can be had for $8. $8,000 plus is the usual price for a 1960’s Andy Warhol paper dress. Vintage paper dresses can be found at Christie and Sotheby auctions.

Today artists and cutting edge fashion designers continue to experiment with paper dresses. Cooper Union College in New York, presented an origami exhibit from June 20 to July 3. The exhibit was titled “Surface to Structure”. The number and quality of the fashion submissions surprised Uyen Nguyen, the show’s curator. She said in an interview with Katherine Roth of the Associated Press; “I hadn’t even expected to include a fashion section, but it ended up being an important part of it.” The clothes are beautiful and the designs are incredibly intricate. This is art to wear or maybe just to look at.

A more practical use of paper dresses is the Cheap Chic Weddings Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest. Charmin sponsors it. This year it celebrated its tenth anniversary.

The paper dress continues to stir the imagination and evolve with technology. It is truly the dress that won’t go away.