Phoenix Museum of Art exhibit showcases’ 60s paper fashions


The paper fashion movement of the 1960s lasted only two short years, but it was two years of paper, paper and more paper.

Paper saris, knitted paper dresses, paper handbags and paper jewelry.

Now you can see over 80 pieces preserved at the Phoenix Art Museum.

“Generation Paper: Fast Fashion in the 1960s” opens on December 18 and runs until July 17, 2022. The exhibition was largely donated by Kelley Ellman, patron of the museum, whose love for dolls in papier influenced a lifetime of collectible ’60s paper fashion, she said.

Print fashion was “in”, said Helen Jean, Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design at the Museum.

“Because it was a weird, new and fun gag, it took off like crazy,” Jean said.

It started as a tableware promotion

The year was 1966.

Scott Paper Company, a toilet paper company, had an idea. Why not exchange someone’s proof of purchase for a paper dress?

So that’s what they did. The company started mailing out paper dresses made from Dura Weave, their lab-created cellusonic fabric used to make their tablecloths, place mats and paper napkins. The idea exploded, says Jean.

James Sterling Paper Fashions, Wrap Dress, c.  1966-67.  Rayon printed Kaycel.  Collection of the Phoenix Art Museum, pledged gift of Kelly Ellman.

“It was just a promotional gag,” said Jean. “Well, it got so popular so fast, it just got the other textile makers off the game really quickly, and then the fashion designers got in the game because there is a lot of money out there. win there. ”

Along with Scott Paper, manufacturers like Mars of Asheville, The Disposables, Sterling Paper Fashions, and Hallmark have all joined us. Over 80,000 paper dresses sold each week.

By the end of 1966, paper dresses had exceeded $ 3.5 million in sales. Ideas got more creative – matching mother-daughter paper sets, paper bikinis, paper knit dresses, paper kaftans, even paper jewelry – all of which are on display at the museum exhibit.

The paper fashion trend didn’t last long

Both years have been an era of innovation, said Jean.

On the one hand, it was a generation from WWII. The affordability of the dresses was an added bonus. Plus, it was a time when innovation seemed limitless – new automobiles were being designed, scientists were building rockets, and fabric designers were creating new fabrics for use across the country.

The environmental impact of disposable clothing was not a concern at the time, Jean said.

“It’s a new generation where the possibility of having a TV dinner in a disposable dress was totally new. And it’s exciting, ”said Jean. “But because it wasn’t practical or long term. He died in just a few years.

The dresses are “gorgeous,” Jean said. But the exhibition – which will also feature behind-the-scenes content on the process of conserving paper clothing – is also an opportunity to pay attention to the environmental impact of fast fashion.

“Are we buying fast-moving disposables that end up in the landfill? Said Jean. “It’s harmful to the environment in a multidimensional way, so it gives us the opportunity to reflect on the investment we make in the clothes we have purchased. How does this make us feel and how will it now impact and inform our decisions? ”

How to see Phoenix Paper Fashion:

Or: Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave, Phoenix. 602-257-1880,

When: Until July 17, 2022

Cost: Free for members, included in the admission price; $ 23 for adults; $ 20 for seniors; $ 18 for college students; $ 14 for children aged 6 to 17; free for children 5 and under

Contact the reporter at [email protected] Follow her on Instagram @ sofia.krusmark


About Carlos V. Mitchell

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