Woman's Dress, 1968–69

Woman's Dress, 1968–69

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Description
This particular paper dress was known as a “Poster Dress,” being the invention of Harvey Gordon, an American artist who was living in England. He thought that paper could be treated as if it were cloth. When these dresses were introduced in the United States in 1968 they sold for $3.00. This dress was purchased and worn by Jean Stuart, wife of the donor, in Washington, D.C. She liked the idea of paper dresses and was particularly drawn to this one because the cat depicted in the design resembled her own cat. This cat dress was featured, along with some of the other Poster Dresses, in Life magazine on April 5, 1968.
The disposable dress was a short-lived phenomenon from about 1966 to 1968. It started when the Scott Paper Company came up with an idea to sell its paper towels by demonstrating that the paper was attractive enough to be worn. With a mail-in promotion in magazines, the company invited consumers in 1966 to send a coupon from a Scott product, along with $1.25, in order to receive a paper dress of either a black and white Op Art pattern or a red bandana print. The campaign became an overnight sensation, with over 500,000 dresses shipped. The demand for the dresses spurred other companies to develop new textures, finishes, and colorful prints. The big appeal for these dresses was their eye-catching patterns and images. People hosted paper parties in their home and for charity balls, which were called “paper balls.” Some wore disposable paper wedding dresses, bathing suits, jewelry, and underwear. By 1968, however, paper dresses lost their appeal. Wearers found them to be ill-fitting and uncomfortable, the painted surfaces were often unstable, and there were concerns about flammability. Most importantly, their novelty had worn off due to overexposure.
This one-piece paper dress is a black and ecru print of a blown-up cat photo. The image of the cat’s face is off center and covers most of the upper portion of the dress. The same photo is positioned on both the front and the back. The dress is a sleeveless A-line cut with a scooped neckline in the front and the back. It is constructed with shoulder and side seams and darts for fitting. The neckline, armholes, and bottom edge are left raw with no finishing. The dress measures 34 inches at the center back.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
Dress, 1-piece
Object Type
Main Dress
Woman
Dress
Entire Body
Date made
1968-1969
user
Stuart, Jean
maker
Poster Dress
made in
United Kingdom: England, London
used in
United States: District of Columbia
purchased in
United States: District of Columbia
Measurements
center back: 34 in; 86.36 cm
ID Number
1996.0365.001
accession number
1996.0365
catalog number
1996.0365.001
Credit Line
George E. Stuart
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Costume
Clothing & Accessories
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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