Is It Live, or is it Memorex?

07/09/2014     10:09AM

As we head into the summer season I am booking and planning my fall presentations. Each and every year someone in the paper distribution industry produces an event featuring a Paper Fashion Show. That is, a show wherein all the clothing is made from paper —usually the paper stock of the mills they represent. It’s always a fascinating blend of engineering and creativity.

Mass-produced paper fashion was invented by the American Scott Paper Company in 1966 as a marketing stunt. Customers could send in a coupon and $1.25 to receive a dress made of "Dura-Weve", a cellulose material patented in 1958.[1]
Dresses made out of Dura-Weve, which featured a red bandanna print or a black and white op art pattern, kicked off a fashion craze. 500,000 of them were produced, and other manufacturers soon followed suit. By 1967, paper dresses were sold in major department stores for about $8 apiece, and entire paper clothing boutiques were set up by companies such as Abraham & Straus and I.Magnin. At the height of demand, Mars Hosiery made 100,000 dresses a week.[1]

Even today, others have joined in the fun. A four year old and her mother have launched a website featuring outfits modeled by the four-year old and made in collaboration with her Mom #FashionbyMahem. They view the interaction with and styling of fashion with paper as a terrific family activity. Just the other day I saw an article about a contest at www.cheap-chic-weddings.com. Applicants were asked to create a wedding dress out of toilet paper for a $10,000 prize. The project is based on a wedding shower game in which shower attendees fashion a dress on the bride-to-be using toilet paper as a part of the wedding shower activities.

One of the most interesting versions of the Paper Fashion Show concept is produced by an artist who recreates historical fashion out of paper. A painter by training and by passion, Isabelle de Borchgrave turned her talent for trompe l’oeil to paper sculptures that reinterpret and recreate almost 300 years of fashion. Her show, Pret-A-Papier, features many dress styles and periods but my personal favorites are the pieces she created based on the 19th century Venice-inspired line from Fortuny. The garments Isabelle de Borchgrave creates are fluid, detailed and completely believable as the real thing.

These fashion adventures remind me that paper can be used to create believable, tactile experiences for the recipient. The techniques available from printers today allow designers to recreate as real an experience as possible—something just short of reality. Need some inspiration for how to use interesting techniques in combination with paper to create an experience for your market? Check out The Standard: Special Effects, which shows designers how the creative use of special effects can make a printed piece dimensional, tactile, intriguing and sometimes interactive. The possibilities of print are endless.

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[1] Paton, Kathleen (2005). "Paper dresses". In Steele, Valerie. Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion 3. Thomson Gale. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0-684-31394-4.

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Daniel Dejan