Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Paper Caper

I learned how to sew about a year ago. Since then, I've gone pretty nutso. I've sewed over 30 mini-skirts and probably about 30-40 dresses. All of them are in the style of the 60's, which is my favorite era for so many things-- interior design, music, vintage sleaze sex books--I could go on and on about my love affair with the 60's.

I love the mod look and have been sewing the mod look. BUT, from a collector's standpoint, I needed some esoteric objects from the past to supplement this new found sewing hobby. Anyone who is a collector knows that collectors will find any excuse to collect something new! But what mod item should I start collecting? I could have collected vintage mod clothing, but I wouldn't really "collect" clothing--I wear the vintage stuff I find. Besides, I was already sewing clothing. What did I decide on? I decided to collect paper dresses.

Front of yellow pages paper dress

What's more pop art than the paper dress phenomenon? While I doubt most producers of paper dresses were trying to make a statement, they did. And that statement was about the throwaway nature of our disposable consumer culture.

One of the most collectible paper dresses from the era is the yellow pages paper dress. Manufactured in 1966 by "Waste Basket Boutique" (Mars of Asheville, NC), the yellow pages paper dress was valued by Antiques Roadshow at a whopping $1800. My husband and I purchased the yellow pages paper dress for our collection, but we bought it on eBay, so we didn't pay anywhere near the $1800 roadshow price (whew!).

Back of yellow pages paper dress

But, we don't yet have in our collection, the most sensational paper dress of them all: the "Souper Dress."

What's the Souper Dress you ask? Starting in 1962, the most famous pop artist of them all, Andy Warhol, began creating his famous Campbell's soup can works. The incorporation of mundane commercial objects as "fine art" at first offended the art establishment, but now the cans have come to be an important part of art history and an easily recognizable symbol in our culture. Warhol himself said that, "a group of painters have come to the common conclusion that the most banal and even vulgar trappings of modern civilization can, when transposed to canvas, become Art."

So, whatever your thoughts about Warhol's work, it certainly provoked discussion and continues to be debated to this day.

But, back to the Souper Dress. In 1966-67, Campbell's soup decided to capitalize on Warhol's inclusion of their product in his art and on the whole paper dress movement by selling a paper dress with their soup cans as the design. Campbell's marketed their paper dress as "The Souper Dress" (nice play on words there Campbell's). If you sent in two Campbell's soup labels plus $1.00, you too could own the Souper Dress, which by the way now sells on eBay for anywhere from $700 to $1800 depending on the condition. Yep, the Souper Dress has become quite the cultural icon.

So, in this post, I'm going to share some pictures of an original "yellow pages" paper dress and myself wearing the dress. The dress is pretty sack-like and not all that flattering, but it wasn't quite as dowdy as I expected. There's something charming about it.

I hope in the future to have added the Souper Dress to our collection as well-- but in the meantime, I've included a picture of the Souper Dress from a museum collection.


  1. I saw a Waste Basket Boutique Football Jersey on eBay a few months ago. I was tempted to buy it but was afraid it would start me on a whole other collating interest! The last thing I need. I think it went unsold for about $99.00.

  2. A football jersey, huh? How strange! I have not seen that. I know what you mean about starting new genres of collecting. It seems to happen most often when the market's dry on something we are really into collecting. And since the market's been very dry on a lot of things....