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PAPER MINIDRESS, ca. 1967, courtesy of 1919vintage.
Wearing Headlines

Newspaper Fashion




“all wrapped up in newspaper work”

On March 7, 1929, a modern young woman in northwest Georgia named Martha Lin Manly took a piece of plain sateen to the printing press of the Dalton Citizen newspaper, where she worked as society editor. She had the day’s news printed on the fabric, which she then fashioned into a stylish shift to wear to an upcoming masquerade ball hosted by the Dalton Junior Chamber of Commerce. Costumes ranged from a Gay Nineties gown to an aviatrix outfit to Peter Pan to a representation of bubbles. Manly’s attractive and timely costume stood out, though, and earned her first prize and the presentation of “a beautiful rhinestone bracelet."

The fashion for newspaper garments has repeatedly captivated popular interest. The unique sartorial expressions, whether assembled of actual newspapers or of fabric printed with news pages, inevitably raise issues of identity and politics. Many costumes reflect the interests of the wearer or the marketing ambitions of the publisher, expressed through the intentional selection and arrangement of printed text. Though few of these ephemeral creations survive, the ones that do and the ones that are documented in vintage photographs attest to the novelty and graphic power of the combination of newspapers and clothing.

Newspaper costumes have been worn by women, men and children for nearly two hundred years. Daily newspapers developed in the eighteenth century and became increasingly common during the nineteenth century.2 The growing prevalence of printed news generated public familiarity with the format and provided ample raw material for newspaper costumes. Such outfits are documented as part of French music-hall revues as early as 1831 when Mademoiselle Déjazet appeared as the character “La Politique” in a dress pasted with newspapers, and became staple costumes for such venues by the end of the nineteenth century.  





Ashley Callahan
Ashley Callahan is an independent scholar and curator in Athens, Georgia, with a specialty in modern and contemporary American decorative arts. She has written books and curated exhibitions on sisters Ilonka and Mariska Karasz, Hungarian-born modern designers based in New York, and Henry Eugene Thomas, a Colonial Revival furniture craftsman from Athens. She enjoys documenting the decorative arts history of the Southeast and promoting the region’s efforts to celebrate craft and design. The newspaper dress from Dalton, which inspired her to investigate the topic of newspaper fashion, came to her attention as part of her research for a book she is writing on the history of chenille fashion for the University of Georgia Press.





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