In The Mid-1960s, There Was A Brief But Intense Fashion Fad Focused On Wearing?
Answer: Paper Clothing
The true mark of a fad is how awesome it seems at the time and how, for all eternity thereafter, the world is left asking “But…why?” In that regard, the paper dress fad of the 1960s was a fad through and through.
In 1966, the Scott Paper Company created a rather clever marketing campaign we’re pretty positive they had no idea would kick off a fad that would last for the next couple of years. To promote their paper products, they ran an advertisement for a paper dress that cost $1.25 (equivalent to $9.69 today, adjusted for inflation). In addition to receiving the dress, the purchaser would also receive coupons for Scott products. They received orders for around 500,000 paper dresses, an outpouring of interest they simply hadn’t anticipated or prepared for. Six months later, they terminated the project because somehow the advertising-campaign-run-wild had turned them into a part time garment company (and they really just wanted to sell more paper towels and related products).
But at that point, the cat was out of the (paper?) bag, and the public interest in paper garments was piqued. Other companies rushed to meet the demand and were making up to 100,000 dresses per week at the height of the craze. Not only could you buy dresses, but aprons, evening gowns, vests, kid’s clothing, and more. Even Hallmark got in on the fad. The image seen here is from a 1967 advertisement showcasing a dress you could purchase to match everything at your party: paper plates, napkins, and wrapping paper included.
While the fad burned bright, by the end of the 1960s the taste for paper clothing had diminished. Once the excitement of the fad was gone, shoppers were left with the reality of paper clothing: it was uncomfortable, it only lasted a few wears (at best), and at the end of the day you were wearing what amounted to a disposable party tablecloth. Today, the only paper clothing you’ll find is specialized and intentionally disposable, such as patient gowns in hospitals and protective clothing intended to keep paint overspray and other materials off of workers.
Image courtesy of Hallmark.