Way back in 1866 making headlines was Matilda Butters, (wife of an Australian businessman), when she sported a cream-coloured silk gown at a Mayor’s Ball. Only this time the news headlines appeared as prints on her gown. ‘The Press Dress’ as it came to be known was made up of 14 different newspapers displaying the front-page news stories. This was one of the earliest fashion trends set, using newspaper prints as design.
Matilda Butters in ‘The Press Dress’ in 1866
This fashion statement famously reappeared and created headlines by Italian couturier Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s. The designer was struck by a fine idea and she ingeniously used press clippings written about her and turned them into printed blouses and accessories. Ms. Schiaparelli’s inspiration, as described in her autobiography, came from the fisherwomen of Denmark where she was holidaying, and observed the hats these women wore were made of newspaper!
In 1946, the same idea excited Louis Réard the inventor of the bikini, and what better way to get his invention to make it to the headlines? Well, the newspaper print was revealed on a two-piece swimwear at an unveiling by the designer.
Newsprint fashion reached a peak in the 1960s where the pattern was a statement in womenswear, and worn as a dress as seen below, popularised by the well know fashion model Twiggy, famous for her size zero figure.
Twiggy wearing a newsprint dress in the 1960s
Two-piece set below by fashion house – Commes Des Garçons, founded by Japanese designer Kawakubo, in the late 1960s.
This vintage motif is here to stay as mainstream fashion’s favourite print. Made famous in our times by John Galliano and Carrie Bradshaw, the print continues to see a renaissance at fashion shows, returning at repeated seasons to be the ‘It’ print.
Designer Diane von Furstenberg made use of newspaper articles written about her and turned them into a print. The wrap dress below by the designer is the most iconic and newsworthy design in the fashion house’s history.
Creations from Diane Von Furstenberg style (L) Wrap Dress; (R) Skirt
Dress by Miaou
Shirt by Versace
The next major newspaper-print experiment was ushered in by John Galliano’s Spring/Summer 2000 couture collection for Dior. Featured pieces included dresses and coats. The designer continued to incorporate the trend in his future collections, which led to a surge in popularity of fashion featuring newspaper print.
John Galliano Spring/Summer 2000 Christian Dior collection
The newspaper print fashion got a further fillip when Carrie Bradshaw of the runaway hit movie Sex and the City was seen in a newspaper-printed Dior dress for a scene. The style moment became so iconic that it continued into the second movie of the same title, in Sarah Jessica Parker’s (Carrie Bradshaw) costume line up.
Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in the hit movie Sex and the City
In the decade of the 2000s, since Galliano’s introduction of the newspaper print fashion, it once again grabbed the attention of designers and fashionistas alike. Big names like Balenciaga, Calvin Klein, Versace, Helmut Lang and Diane von Furstenberg all jumped into the bandwagon and experimented with the print incorporating their individualistic renditions and that are now in vogue.
Today, newsprint fashion has found favour as streetwear as much as it did for high fashion, and includes both womenswear and menswear. The print has also expanded to include hats jackets, coats, pants and even boots, other than appearing in dresses and coats. Designer Jeremy Scott’s 2019/2020 New York Fashion Week Fall collection, is a fine example of this.
Jeremy Scott 2019/2020 Fall Collection for both WOMEN and MEN
Several celebrities having embraced the newspaper print has further popularized streetwear in this motif. Kim Kardashian West showing off the trend in a vintage Dior skirt, or Kendall Jenner and Kaia Gerber sporting the trend in tailored pants are indications that the aesthetic may rule the fashion world, hereon. Print isn’t just for paper. With news becoming more accessible than ever, a place you can now expect to see the latest scoop is on your clothes. Your read right, a black and white trend of newspaper printed fashion has been increasing its influence in streetwear all 2020.
Kim Kardashian (L) and Kendall Jenner (R)in newsprint fashion
What is the significance of this newspaper print motif for fashion designers? Journalism and fashion both dominate our lives, with one being more visible than the other. It appears that designers choose newsprint not for what it says, but for what it means. Wearing newspaper printed clothes may be making a statement for the wearer. Such fashion does make heads turn with intrigue. But for the creator, it is establishing to the world, like all respected publications, that they have a good sense of ethics and moral compass. But the first uses of newsprint in fashion were intended to perhaps bring realism into their world.