Paper Clothes: Not Just for Dolls

August 07, 2018

colorful shirts.

Innovation is often born from trying times. Even today, the packaging industry operates on principles that were established out of necessity in the Wild West. Today on the blog, we’re looking back at another tough period in history to see how innovation in paper brought one of our favorite packaging materials into the world of fashion.

The outlook for Germany after the Great War was grim. The nation faced a shortage of many supplies needed for manufacturing, including those to clothe civilians. Most of the country’s wool was imported, which proved too expensive to buy after the war left the German economy in shambles. What they lacked in resources for traditional clothing, they made up for in packaging ingenuity.

With their surplus of paper, the German clothing industry turned to paper as an inexpensive fabric of sorts. They sliced sheets of paper into strips and loaded them onto spindles, where the strips would be woven together to form everything from men’s formalwear to women’s bathing suits. Paper cut the cost of a business suit from $30 down to less than a buck!

Okay, we know what you’re thinking: paper’s great and all, but who in their right mind would fill their wardrobe with it?!

We’ll be right back after we slam our closet door shut.

Surprisingly, paper clothing actually worked quite well. In 1920, the Associated Press noted that paper clothes were “warm, comfortable and durable, considering the fabric of which they are made.” They were even waterproof and washable by hand. Now that’s true packaging innovation!

Fast-forward a few decades and paper clothing was right at home in the groovy ‘60s. Paper dresses were an inexpensive way for fashion fans to sport the latest designs, and to responsibly dispose of them when trends moved on. Big brands like Campbell’s even got in on the paper love, with their take on turning their iconic soup cans into art (thanks for the idea, Andy Warhol!).










Innovation is what keeps us going at Ernest Packaging Solutions. Pushing the boundaries of what packaging materials are capable of lets us bring our best work to the table. Check out our Cardboard Chaos series to see how we innovate to provide unique solutions to packaging challenges — and have a blast while doing it.