Friday, February 4, 2011

Clothing as Canvas

The phenomena of the paper dress is something that has long intrigued and inspired me. First introduced to the market in 1966 as a novelty item by the Scott Paper Company, paper dresses were an instant hit.  Released from the narrow constricts of what was considered acceptable attire in an era of sexual and workplace revolution, women quickly adopted the freedom of these cheap and sexy paper dresses. I've written many posts about the paper dress in the past, and was delighted to discover that The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has several on display in their Jennifer Ivey Bannock Exhibit on the fourth floor.

Time Magazine dress, Printed paper designed by Walter Lefmann and Ron de Vito
USA 1967 Gift of Time International of Canada Ltd.
ROM 967.77 (Photo by ROM staff)
According to Dr. Alexandra Palmer, Senior Curator Senior Curator Textiles & Costume at the ROM "the newest display entitled Clothing as Canvas presents paper fashions that emulate textiles and fashion and textiles that copy printed paper from the 1940s to the present." 

Besides the striking Time Magazine dress, I was drawn to a paper gown created by Toronto designer Ruth Dukas in 1967 for a gala event in support of the National Ballet of Canada. The volunteer committee asked several fashion designers including Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Courreges, Pucci and Geoffrey Beene to create paper dresses for the evening's event and auction. The Ruth Dukas dress (shown below) is made of painted paper, glued on cloth flowers and sequins. If I hadn't been told that it was paper, I would have guessed that it was cotton.

Evening gown by Ruth Dukas 1967
Printed paper, glued on cloth flowers and sequins
ROM 968.200A, Gift of the National Ballet of Canada
Also on display are textiles that look like paper including a silk knit dress designed by John Galliano for Christian Dior ready to wear 2000-2001. The fabric of this dress is printed to look like a fictional Dior newspaper with reviews and commentary on his collection and was worn and donated to the ROM by Torontonian Kara Alloway. The printed textile of the Dior dress echoes a scarf created by Elsa Schiaparelli from the 1940s (which is also on display). Given my background in newspaper publishing, I lingered for a long time in front of these items - so long in fact, that the security guard nervously hovered close by until I left the gallery.

John Galliano for Dior, 2000-2001 Ready to Wear ROM2002.39.1 Photo by ROM staff
Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario

Photo credits: All photos were provided by the ROM and are subject to copyright.