It has been three years now since I saw this fun exhibit at the Asheville Museum of Art. The museum hosted a collection of paper dresses made here in Asheville by the Mars Manufacturing Co. where the Riverview Station is on Lyman St. today.
In review this fashion trend started in 1966, when Scott Paper Co. introduced disposable clothing as a promotion gimmick with a sleeveless shift selling for $1.00. It was so shapeless that it recalled a paper bag. But for a country now accustomed to throw-away cups, plates, napkins and diapers, paper clothing seemed a logical next step. Scott sold 500,000 dresses in eight months, and the strong response had other manufacturers and designers joining the paper chase.
By 1967, Mars Manufacturing Company of Asheville was the nation’s leading producer of paper dresses, selling 80,000 to 100,000 a week. From its basic A-line shift, the company expanded its line to include bell-bottom jump suits, evening gowns, aprons, men’s vests, children’s dresses and even swimming trunks. The rage for paper lasted a short time and by 1974 it was already passé. At that point the Mar’s Manufacturing Company began experimenting with other uses for paper clothing and eventually developed a successful line of disposable garments to be worn in factories and hospitals.
Images and text courtesy of the Asheville Museum of Art