Thursday, 10 March 2011

How to pack 10 wives in a mini

As well as having some copies of ‘The Artist’ from 1967 I've inherited a couple of editions of the AA’s ‘Drive’ magazine from the same year.  Alongside articles on how far £50 will get you on a continental holiday or how to drive and grow slim (it’s all about the way you sit and how you can exercise your head and shoulders while waiting at traffic lights, apparently    presumably not by leaning out of your window to shout abuse at the driver in front…) plus stylish adverts for the Triumph Herald and the Ford Corsair, I came across this

(courtesy Drive magazine Spring 1967)

So, how do you pack 10 wives into a mini, and why would you want to? (don’t answer that…)

As titles go, it's eye-catching, so I’ve borrowed it.  But all is not as it seems.  Those women pictured are in fact, one and the same (no!!!) and represent the ideal wife who knows how to pack holiday suitcases that take up so little room it won’t force her husband to have to sit on the roof-rack.  In fact they won’t need a roof-rack at all.  Just one suitcase will do.  A suitcase which contains no more than ten items of clothing, each of which can be worn for a different holiday occasion and each of which will ensure that the (one) wife will dazzle and impress and invite much admiration and, well, just do all the things that wives in 1967 were required to do.

Here we have a ‘go-anywhere-at-anytime’ dress made of creaseless Tricel jersey in bright orange, pink and yellow (I think it should be re-titled the ‘be-seen-anywhere-at-anytime’ dress), an evening trouser suit in pink, purple and blue made of ‘silky nylon and acetate jersey’ and a striped motoring jacket with trousers made from ‘Dacron and cotton’.  Tricel?  Acetate?  Dacron?  I love how fabrics were made to sound as synthetic as possible.  Now that we are beckoned by the promise of all things made from natural fibres, organic cottons, real wool from alpacas that have only eaten grass that has never been trodden on by human feet, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day sackcloth and ashes literally become an eco fashion choice (the ashes clearly fit into the recycled category).  Yet back then it seemed the more chemical sounding something was, the better.

But the best is yet to come.  See that groovy green and pink dress, second from left, modelled by our lovely wife-for-all-occasions pretending to be four years old?  It’s made of paper. 

Paper dresses were a short-lived but rather amazing phenomenon of ‘60s fashion.  You can see how the idea caught on at a time when disposable items were so desirable.  In the US, the Scotts Paper Company's advertisers said this about their paper dress, "...Wear it anytime...anywhere.  Won't last forever...who cares?  Wear it for kicks - then give it the air."  

They were cheap (the one in this picture cost 22 shillings, compared to the £5 you’d have to spend on the orange shift dress) so you didn’t even have to wash them - just go out and buy a new one.  If you got bored with it you could throw it away and replace with a different design.  Same goes if it gets creased or damaged – just get another.  . But of course damage was one of the pitfalls.  They did rip easily.  Chemicals – yes, those beloved chemicals – could be added to the paper to make them more fire-resistant, but there were still risks.  On the other hand, if you thought your dress was a bit too long, or a bit too tight around the neck, or you even wanted to make it a little bit saucier with some strategically placed holes, just take a pair of scissors to it and – sorted!  And they were ideal for displaying bright, bold patterns and graphics.  One famous version was called ‘The Souper Dress’ inspired by the Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup can print.  The dress featured Campbell’s red, black and white soup labels in its striking design and was used by them as an advertising campaign. 

Another successful paper dress was made by Hallmark and known as the ‘hostess dress’.  These were created to match their paper party napkins and tablecloths.  Oh, lovely!  (Although I would have thought there was a danger of your guests wiping their fingers on you, greasy from potato puffs and Smiths exciting new salt & vinegar crisps.)

In 1967, such was the delight at how modern and practical paper clothes could be that someone predicted that in 1980 a quarter of all clothing expenditure would be on paper ones.  But then the world of the future seen through 1967 eyes was so different in many ways from our reality.  Speaking of the advantage of paper clothes in years to come, one textile designer even said, "After all, who is going to do laundry in space?"  Presumably not one of the 10 wives he'd have packed in his rocket...

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