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Paper Posh: The Disposable Clothing Craze

The Space Age launched a number of futuristic fashion fads, but none was a bigger craze than paper dresses. Launched by Scott Paper Co.—the same people who make toilet paper—on this day in 1966, the original “Paper Caper” minidress sold through a chipper ad campaign in the April issue of Seventeen magazine for $1.25 and came with .52 cents of coupons. The colorful A-line frock was meant to be thrown away after one use (“After all, who is going to do laundry in space?” mused textile designer Julian Tomchin to Life magazine), and Scott sold half a million of the things in the first five months without even trying.

Scott never meant to start a fashion craze, though. The company was initially chasing after an idea for a new market—paper garments for hospitals and other places where disposable clothing could be more cost effective than doing endless loads of hot-water laundry—when it brainstormed the potential novelty of its “nonwoven fabric.” Scott was about to introduce a line of paper table linens, and guessed a promotional paper housedress would be a cute gimmick. So its people contacted the people at Seventeen, whose editors helped the company design the sleeveless, collarless dress boasting two big patch pockets and splashed with black-and-white Op Art or a bright red paisley pattern. Made of layers of cellulose and nylon, the crunchy, waffle- Read More »

Happy 45th Birthday, Miniskirt! Our Thighs and Kneecaps are Forever Grateful.


In early 1965, a revolution—one that was a little bit cultural and a little bit fashionable—was brewing. Thirty-one-year-old London-based designer Mary Quant watched the sassy young women in her Chelsea boutique roll up the waistbands of their skirts to force the hemlines even higher than the knee-baring styles of the era allowed, and decided to take things a step further. And so on September 1, 1965, at a happening new fashion event in New York City billed a “Youthquake,” Quant debuted that itty bitty scrap of clothing that would become the bane of conservative parents and even later—much later—a metaphor for women’s liberation: the miniskirt.

A to-the-letter fashion historian will pertly inform the doubtful that experts have long debated which designer technically “invented” the miniskirt. Some of those experts give the credit to Frenchman André Courrèges, whose skirts in collections a year prior had daringly featured a hint of thigh, while other designers had slyly snipped a centimeter or so off their own hemlines, too. It’s true that Read More »

Cinemode: A Hard Day’s Night

On July 6, 1964, A Hard Day’s Night was unleashed, bringing 87 minutes of uninterrupted Fab Four to teenagers around the world. The film, released at the height of Beatlemania, is a spoof covering a “typical” day for The Beatles, and essentially a vehicle for promoting the boy band’s upcoming album of the same name. The film earned more than $6 million and two Oscar nominations, despite the thinnest thread of a plot and a script built of one-liners and songs. Producer David Picker said he never saw a script before filming, but imagined something “14 pages long [with] a lot of stage directions.” A Hard Day’s Night is a musical in the loosest sense, but delivers mod splendor from start to finish: the suits, the boots, the hair…The Beatles!

The story opens with the boys sprinting toward the camera with a mob Read More »

A Youthquaker Gets Her Due

On June 22, 1971, Betsey Johnson won her only Coty American Fashion Award, an honor she shared with another seventies icon, Halston.

If any year was definitively Betsey Johnson’s, this was it. “Granny style” was the newest wrinkle (sorry; couldn’t resist that one) in an increasingly fickle style landscape. “Today’s girl looks like grandma did, sweet and covered up…” lured one advertisement for Johnson’s clothes. The heated mini-midi-maxi skirt debate had women turning their backs on designer labels in favor of piecing together their own brand of individualized wardrobes through vintage bins and less-expensive, off-the-rack brands. Johnson was just 28 years old, but already hinted at a personality that was defiantly anti-establishment while still being the life of the party. Read More »

He was the King of Kings Road, and then he wasn’t

On this day, June 9, 1942, British designer Ossie Clark was born.

When rising design star Ossie Clark set up shop at Quorum on King’s Road in London in 1965, he took it upon himself to instruct his customers on how to dress and play the part of a Sixties sex goddess. “When I was 18 I put on one of those dresses,” recalls Marianne Faithfull, also a young player on the Swinging London scene in ’65. “He made me take off my bra, my knickers and everything. I said, ‘How do you expect me to go out like this? What are the instructions?’ And he said, ‘You’re meant to be able to lift your dress up and pull down the top and have sex anywhere.”

And they say the sexual revolution began in San Francisco.

Clark’s taste for the sexy and dramatic began early. At the Royal College of Art in London he met textile designer Celia Birtwell, who would soon become his business partner and later his wife. The two became friends with painter David Hockney, and Read More »

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