Paper Dolls

By Dale Peers

If you ever played with paper dolls as a child imagine the thrill of dressing a living model in your own paper creation.  That was the opportunity provided by the folks at the White Cashmere Collection 2017 National Student Competition. 

This was the 14th annual fashion fund and awareness-raising campaign for breast cancer research.  One hundred and fifty students of Fashion Design from 11 different schools took part in the competition.  Sixteen finalists were given the ultimate design challenge to use bathroom tissue to make their couture design leap from their sketchbooks to the fashion runway.

Congratulations to our Seneca Fashion Arts student, Charlotte Li who won third prize with her beautiful garment inspired by the 63-year-old widow, Annie Edson Taylor, who successfully barreled over Niagara Falls in 1901.

Charlotte Li

Photo by George Pimental


First place winner, Chelsea Cox from Kwantlen Polytechnic University created not only a dress of paper but 9,689 hand rolled pink and white paper beads to embellish her creation.  Her inspiration was the iconic Hudson’s Bay coat.

Chelsea CoxPhoto by George Pimental

For those with any sewing experience, you know the effects of choosing fabrics like chiffon, taffeta and silk.  The feel and slip of these makes sewing them a challenge.  Now imagine using this extraordinarily delicate medium to create such garments!

You might be surprised that this is the 14th annual competition sponsored by White Cashmere but the history of using paper in the production of fashion is actually quite a long one.  Paper parasols and fans have been used since the 17th century in Europe.  Fast forward to the 1960s and the age of disposability increased consumer demand for paper towels, napkins and plates. Shortly thereafter the paper fashion craze gained in popularity.

If you would like to learn more about the history of paper fashion’s Jonathan Walford’s book, Ready to Tear: Paper Fashions of the 60s is an excellent source!Ready to Tear

The psychedelic and pop art of the 1960s became a perfect partner to this new fashion phenomenon and swirling patterns of bright colour were used.   Andy Warhol’s painting immortalizing Campbell Soup was printed onto the “Souper Dress.”  It came complete with additional yellow lines to allow the fashionista to “hem” the dress to her desired length with a pair of scissors – no sewing required!

We have a few examples in our Fashion Resource Centre collection and one with an iconic Canadian link.

This image of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau was used during one of his election campaigns in the 1960s!Trudeau Paper Dress

Congratulations to all those brave fashion designers who used their creative ability to conceive of such amazing designs, their engineering skills to bring them to fruition and to the living paper dolls who modeled them.

Leave a Reply