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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Disposable Fashion

When one considers Wisconsin's important contributions to big industries, products like cheese, beer, and even ginseng come to mind. Unfortunately, for fashionistas across the state, Wisconsin designers have usually been marginalized while metropolitan centers like New York and Paris typically dictated what was "in." But in 1966, a Wisconsin paper company proved that the state was hip enough to instigate a nationwide fashion trend.

With factories in Marinette and Oconto Falls, Scott Paper Company had always produced standard paper products -- napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. In an effort to promote its new line of "Color Explosion" products, in the mid-1960s the company introduced two paper dresses.

These dresses, known as "Paper Caper" were made from a combination of paper-napkin stock and rayon that the company called Dura Weve. Embracing advancing technology and space travel, fashion trends like paper dresses incorporated futuristic designs popular at the time. The dresses were simple, chic, and relatively low maintenance.

Dresses were available in two prints (a black and white pop art pattern and a warm paisley) as well as a simple, sleeveless design. Despite being coated in a flame-retardant substance resembling Mylar, the dresses each possessed a label warning of increased flammability should they become wet.

Although women overwhelmed the company with demand for its new products, Scott discontinued production after only a few months in order to concentrate on their staple products. Several clothing manufacturers picked up the trend and began designing other paper garments.

Ultimately the fad was short-lived, however. Consumers favored eco-friendly garments over the readily discarded paper pieces that produced a great deal of waste. Few of the disposable dresses survived the test of time. Luckily, one of Scott's original orange, red, and yellow paisley dresses can be seen at the Wisconsin Historical Museum or online in its Curators' Favorites series.

:: Posted in Curiosities on August 27, 2009

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