Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive


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Sustainability and a Paper Jumpsuit

By Emilie Chan and Zoe Yin, MA Fashion Students  

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Paper Jumpsuit FRC2014.07.001 Gift of Suddon-Cleaver Collection

This woman’s one-piece jumpsuit from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection is made from a paper textile with repetitive printed patterns in highly contrasting colour combinations—pink, orange, yellow, and green (FRC2014.07.001AB). This jumpsuit is structured with a zipper back, long sleeves, wide legs that flare out from the waist, and is adorned with a self-tie paper strap and a ruffled neckline. The jumpsuit shows evidences of wear through the pilling and thinning in the movement areas, and there are observable jagged edges on the bottoms of the pant legs. This paper garment is dated between 1967 and 1969 by an unknown maker. In this essay, we analyze the sustainability of paper as a textile.

Historical Context & Elements of Sustainable Design
Paper clothing was a fashion fad of the 1960s. As printing technologies became increasingly advanced in the 1960s (Kent & Williams, 1990), Scott Paper Co., an American company, introduced paper dresses as a marketing tool in 1966 to promote their ability to print beautiful colours onto paper products (“Scott Paper,” 1966). They were composed of paper bound with a synthetic material (rayon) called Dura-Weve (“Paper-Dress Fad,” 2014). Economic expansion and increased discretionary income (“United States GDP,” 2018) allowed consumers embrace these colourful paper garments, prompting other manufacturers and brands to produce paper clothing (Schaer, 1999). The psychedelic colour and pattern combinations seen in this garment represent the aesthetic of  the counterculture “Hippie Movement” of the late 1960s (“The Sixties,” 2018).

American environmental policies and regulations moved away from a wilderness and resource preservation mentality to one that better understood the relational value between the environment and the American society in the 1960s (“New Environmentalism,” 2018), arguably sparked by the release of Silent Spring (1962) by Rachel Carson (Levy & Wissenburg 2004). Paper clothing embodied a throwaway culture—although made with arguably less resources than today’s fast fashion, they were still intended to live a short product lifetime. Daphne Mohajer (2018) suggests that the 1960’s paper fashion “represented a lack of ecological awareness highlighted by its impermanence and disposability” (Mohajer 253). Nonetheless, paper garments were easily hemmed and customizable by the consumer with scissors, evident in the orange paper jumpsuit. Cut off material was then used as hair bows and other accessories (Schaer 1999)—these acts align with “zero-waste” bodies of thinking. Simultaneously, there was prevalent use of synthetic materials in commercial products, aided by government support for the industry (“Timeline,” 2018).

Paper As a Textile in Today’s Fashion Landscape
Although paper clothing was deemed un-environmentally friendly in the late 1960s and made no effort to be sustainable (Buck 2017), it touched on ideas of sustainable practices and ways of thinking, such as a dye-free manufacturing process, self customization to extend product lifetime, and a somewhat zero-waste culture. A few contemporary fashion designers of the present have used paper as the primary choice of garment materials. Some, like Hussein Chalayan, chose paper to convey a sociological message (Howarth 2015) while others, such as Helmut Lang, chose paper as a design preference (“Collection,” 2018). Small businesses such as Paper No.9 have also developed new paper textiles that are more durable in both garment production and product use (“About Us,” 2018). However, the uses of paper as a clothing textile today largely remains within the elite fashion market, or used within sterile environments with a throw-away mindset, such as disposable hospital gowns.

The throw-away paper clothing fad from the 1960s is similar to today’s throw-away culture, supported by fast fashion. Both forms of fashion short product lifetimes, but paper fashions are arguably more sustainable because of the lower environmental, economical and social degradation required for production compared to fast fashion products of the 2000s.

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Detail of Paper Textile FRC2014.07.001

Final Remarks and Future Outlook
Paper as a textile material in the 1960s had unintended sustainable elements—arguably less chemicals were used in production, and was easily customizable by the consumer. However, it posed potential recycling problems (as the paper fibre was coated with synthetic materials). Comparing fast fashion with paper fashion invokes ideas of resource trade-off– trading less use of one resource for the increased use of another. In view of this, there is still value in self-customization and the limited resources used in paper fashion production that designers and manufacturers can learn from this 1960s fad. The use of paper as a garment textile is encouraged by many, including Japanese fashion designer Daphne Mohajer (2018), who suggests that although “paper may not seem like a suitable material for making clothing, [it] can be strong and durable if made in a specific way” (Mohajer 236).

References

About Us. (2018). “Paper No.9. ” Retrieved from https://paper-no9.com/about_us

Buck, S. (2017). “This wild paper clothing trend of the 1960s was the early version of fast-fashion. Medium.” The Met, Retrieved from https://timeline.com/paper-fashion-1960s-43dd00590bce

Daphne Mohajer va Pesaran. (2018). “People and Placeness: Paper Clothing in Japan.” Fashion Practice 10:2, 236-255, DOI:10.1080/17569370.2018.1458498
Howarth, D. (2015). “Clothes dissolve on the catwalk during Hussein Chalayan’s Spring Summer 2016 show.” DeZeen.
Kent, A., Williams, J. G. (1990). Encyclopedia of Microcomputers (6), CRC Press.
Paper-Dress Fad Began at State’s Scott Paper CO. (2014, May 14), Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Newspapers Inc.
Levy, Y., & Wissenburg, M. (Eds.). (2004). “Liberal democracy and environmentalism : the end of environmentalism?”

New Environmentalism. (2018). University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Schaer, S. (1999, Feb 12). “Long Island: Our Future/Back to the Future/Predictions from the Past that Haven’t Come True…yet/Recycling a Fad into Fashion” Newsday.
Scott Paper CO. “Defers Entry into Dress Business” (1966, Apr 21), Women’s Wear Daily, Vol.112, Iss.79.

“The Sixties”. (2018). PBS.Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/opb/thesixties/timeline/timeline_text.html#culture
“Timeline of Manmade Fibres”. (2018). Textile School. Retrieved from https://www.textileschool.com/351/timeline-of-manmade-fibers/
United States GDP. (2018). Trading Economics. Retrieved from https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp

This post was edited by Ingrid Mida, Curator and Dress Historian, FRC Collection Co-ordinator


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Making History: Inspired by Courrèges Part 2

by Shira Yavor

In Part 1, I outlined my source of inspiration and research for this project. In part 2, I outline my remaking of the Courrèges raincoat seen in the 1993 photograph by William Laxton.

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Courreges-inspired coat by Shira Yavor. Model Alanna Furlong & Photographer Arnold Lan 

In making a technical drawing of the coat, I combined elements that were visible in the photo and inferred what the rest could have looked like. My research in Part 1 helped me understand Courrèges’ aesthetic. He once said: “I made the garments fall away from the body by starting from the shoulders. Darts were no longer necessary” (Guillaume 8). This suggested that there were no shaping darts in the photographed coat; the front and back would drape freely off the shoulder without darts.

I draped the front and back pieces on a Judy with muslin fabric. I later adjusted the pattern, straightened and trued the lines. I drafted the collar according to the technique shown for drafting an inset band in the book Pattern Making for Fashion Design (Armstrong 206). I slashed and spread the collar from the neckline up, so that it sits away from the neck. I used a compass to draft the flowers with 5 petals. The draping and drafting process took approximately 5 hours.

The black & white photograph led me to believe that this dress was made in white vinyl, but I later discovered it was actually made in yellow vinyl. Courrèges space age garments were often made in white, since white represented purity and gave off a futuristic look (Guillaume 13). The fabric I purchased was a white heavyweight vinyl with a shiny surface texture that mimicked leather. The ideal fabric would have been a bit lighter and completely smooth and reflective, however I was not able to source any.

In order to sew this material smoothly, I purchased a Teflon sewing foot and leather needle to help the fabric move along. I also purchased white polyester threads and a thicker thread for topstitching. I purchased a coordinating lining and fusing for the closure part of the jacket. At the end of the sewing process, I had the snaps installed at Leather Sewing Supply Depot.

After I got the desired fit, I transferred the muslin to a pattern and cut the vinyl pieces. This fabric was hard to deal with, because it creased easily, and could not be ironed. I tested out light ironing through another piece of fabric, but the vinyl got sticky. I had to roll out all of the fabric in order to cut it. Pins could not be used at all during the cutting and sewing process because they left holes in the fabric. The fabric was very bulky while sewing. At first I was careful not to crease the fabric and rolled it out of the way while sewing, but it was inevitable that some parts got creased, such as the flowers and sleeves.

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Close up of flower cut out. Photographed by Arnold Lan. Model Alanna Furlong.

I first constructed the front, and then continued to sew the back, the lining, then sewed the collar and sandwiched it between the self-fabric and the lining. I used the guide for sewing circular pocket’s in Carr’s book for reference in order to figure out how to sew the circular cutouts. For the collar, under-stitching helped it curve nicely. Cutting slits in the seam allowance also helped, and I did this in the collar and cutouts.

I tried to flatten the seams using a clapper – a wood tailoring tool, however it made little difference. Only under-stitching and top stitching held the seams open properly, so I did this wherever possible.

Most of the lining was machine stitched. Part of it was left open in order to flip the garment over to the right side. I then closed this part with a slipstitch. Although ideally, the coat would have had a full lining, I left the sleeves unlined.  Instead I serged the armhole opening of the lining to keep it from fraying. This part of the garment construction was not as accurate as it could have been due to time constraints.

The whole process of creating the coat, excluding research and shopping for supplies took approximately 38 hours. I spent 5 hours creating the pattern and muslin, and 33 hours in sewing it.

References

Alekna, Catherine. Sewing the 60s. Blogger, 2009, http://sewingthe60s.blogspot.ca/. Accessed 10 Nov. 2016.

Armstrong, Helen Joseph. Patternmaking for Fashion Design. 5th ed. Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.

Carr, Roberta C., Pati Palmer, Ann Hesse. Price, and Barbara Weiland Talbert. Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing. Portland, OR: Palmer/Pletsch, 1993. Print.

Handley, Susannah. Nylon: The Manmade Fashion Revolution: A Celebration of Design from Art Silk to Nylon and Thinking Fibres. London: Bloomsbury, 1999. Print.

This post was edited and posted by Ingrid Mida, Curator, Dress Historian & FRC Collection Co-ordinator. 


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Making History: Inspired by Courrèges Part 1

by Shira Yavor

andres courreges

Courreges Raincoat photographed by William Laxton

My Making History project is inspired by a black and white photograph of a model wearing a dress/raincoat with cutouts and a flower motif designed by André Courrèges (Note 1). This image included the caption: “André Courrèges, Dress, photographed by William Laxton, 1960s.” My research included examining garments from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection. I also considered the prominent cultural and social forces of the sixties, since fashion captures shifts in culture, being a fugitive form of applied art (Garner 145). Part 1 will present my research. Part 2 will outline the process of remaking the garment.

André Courrèges was a French designer (1923-2016), and launched his fashion house in Paris in 1961. He has been described as the designer who best captured the space age (Garner 40). DuPont developed textiles which were used for moon suits, and these new materials inspired cosmic silhouettes and a new futuristic style. The space age can be compared to a child exploring parts of the world that are seen for the first time (Topham 156) and this aspect can be linked to Courrèges’ youthful designs.

Courrèges clothes were often made for childlike figures. Chanel compared his designs directly with childrenswear (Guillaume 16). Childrenswear definitely had an impact on womenswear, and the influences went both ways. 1960s costume for girls followed the styles that women were wearing. Girls’ dresses became less fitted, more A-line, and shorter. Pants became suitable for girls to wear at school and not only for play in the late 1960s, when pantsuits became more acceptable for women (Tortora, Eubank 574).

Courrèges designed two lower priced lines directed at a younger market: Couture Future, targeted towards 30-40 year olds for 1/3rd of couture prices and Hyperbole, a less expensive line for 20 year olds, available for approximately 1/5th of couture prices (Lynam 203).

In the 1960s, the younger generation was looking for something new and shocking in fashion, and the miniskirt fulfilled that need (Garner 145-147). While Courrèges took credit for the miniskirt, Mary Quant said “the girls in the street” were the ones who wanted this style, so neither designer can really take full credit for it (Lynam 198). The look Courrèges wanted to create emphasized freedom, from the silhouette to the styling. Courrèges saw the body as “a whole”, and therefore did not want to separate the upper and lower body with a waistline (Guillaume 7). Instead he made clothes that floated over the body. The garments Courrèges created were “easy to wear” (Guillaume 4). He, like his contemporaries, Paco Rabanne and Mary Quant, sometimes incorporated industrial materials such as Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Velcro ® and various plastics into designs.  Courrèges said: “At first vinyl used to crack” (Guillaume 15). Mary Quant also initially struggled when working with PVC, since the material would stick to the sewing foot and the seams were weak (Handley 106).

To better understand the construction of Courrèges’ garments, I visited the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection and examined two Courrèges Paris pantsuits, both of orange knit to study how these garments were constructed and finished. 

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Courrèges pantsuit FRC2013.02.009 A+B

In the first example, the Courrèges pantsuit consisted of a zippered jacket and matching bell bottom pants with cuffs (FRC2013.02.009 A+B). The seams on this acrylic pantsuit are all sewn and topstitched, except for the pant cuff. Finishing details show that this is high quality garment, for instance the shoulder area is fused from the inside. A small snap closure holds the top of the jacket in place, in addition to the zipper. The garment is highly functional, all of the pockets are real and the garment is lined in a similar orange shade. The polyamide lining is hand stitched with corresponding coloured thread on the pants, and transparent nylon thread on the jacket. Although this garment is from the Hyperbole line, which a cheaper ready to wear lines, functionality, high end finishing and comfort were still considered.

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The second orange pant suit (FRC2014.07.587 A+B) is also from the Hyperbole line. Made of orange knit, the pants are surprisingly unlined since the wool, cotton, acrylic blended material is less comfortable to touch. The jacket is lined with 100% acetate and has fake flap pockets, less functional than the first jacket. The vinyl details are in quite poor condition today, peeling off, and according to dress historian curator Ingrid Mida are reflective of the instability of these early plastics. The pants have a zipper that is stitched in by hand.

Although both pantsuits are from the lower priced Hyperbole line, they both featured the famous white snaps and Courrèges initials logo. As well, they both had many fine finishing details using a combination of hand sewing and machine stitching. In recreating the dress in the photo, I used this information to guide my remaking.

In Part II, I will present my remaking of the Courrèges raincoat/dress.

This post was condensed and edited by Ingrid Mida, Curator and Dress Historian, FRC Collection Co-ordinator. 

Notes

Note 1:  When referencing Courrèges throughout the project I am referring to the designer himself and his wife as spokespeople of the brand. Although the image of Andres Courrèges stands in front of the brand, his wife and creative partner Coqueline was said to have done much of the casting and design work (Lynam 197).

References

Crane, Diana. “Globalization, Organizational Size, and Innovation in the French Luxury Fashion Industry: Production of Culture Theory Revisited.” Poetics, 24, 1997. Pp 393-414. Science Direct. Web. Accessed 9 Nov. 2016.

Guillaume, Valérie. Courrèges (Fashion Memoir). London: Thames & Hudson, 1998. Print.

Lynam, Ruth. Couture: An Illustrated History of the Great Paris Designers and Their Creations. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972. Print.

Mida, Ingrid and Alexandra Kim. The Dress Detective: A Practical Guide to Object-based Research in Fashion. Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. Print.

Tortora, Phyllis G, and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume: A History of Western Dress. New York, NY: Fairchild Publications, 2009. Print.

Shira Yavor is a third year Ryerson Fashion Design student. This Making History project was undertaken in Fall 2016 for a Costume History assignment.