When Hallmark Made Dresses

Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Promised gift of Kelly Ellman. Image © Phoenix Art Museum

Candy Wrappers, Caftan, 1960s. Printed rayon.

Paper dresses aren’t just for paper dolls, as the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona reveals in its current exhibition, Generation Paper: Fast Fashion of the 1960s.

In the mod mid-to-late 1960s, paper manufacturers such as Hallmark, Scott, Mars of Asheville, The Disposables, and Sterling Paper Fashions crafted women's wear from paper, plastic, laminate, and other non-woven materials. The Campbell’s Souper Dress is perhaps the best-known example of this trend, and one of those is on view here alongside 79 other dresses, bikinis, jumpsuits, and hats, many showcasing whimsical designs that seem both futuristic and stuck in a past that assumed the “ultimate party hostess” would want her clothing to match her placemats and napkins.

Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Promised gift of Kelly Ellman. Image © Phoenix Art Museum

Hallmark, “Floresence” Romper, ca. 1967. Printed 80% Cellulose and 20% cotton paper.

“The fashion-design collection at Phoenix Art Museum is home to one of the leading collections of paper garments in the United States, and Generation Paper is a unique opportunity for museum visitors to experience these vibrant, fascinating, and imaginative designs,” said Mark Koenig, the Interim Sybil Harrington Director and CEO.   

The exhibition is also meant to prompt reflection on issues like fast fashion and sustainability in the textile industry. “The exhibition encourages viewers to consider how fashion can sometimes be a playground for testing new technology and materials, a canvas for artists, and a whimsical experience for the wearer,” said Helen Jean, the museum’s Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design, who curated the exhibition. “I hope everyone who explores our fashion-design galleries this winter are inspired to look at the impact their clothing choices make and consider a longer commitment to their wardrobe. Perhaps we will find a stronger connection to one another if we are less ‘fast’ with our fashion and less ‘throw-away’ with our culture.”

The exhibition remains on view through July 17, 2022.