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Asheville Art Museum Hosts Lunchtime Gallery Talk with Audie & Bob Bay September 5

Join Audie and Bob Bayer for an informal and informative tour of the new exhibitions Groovy Garb: Paper Clothing from Mars Manufacturing of Asheville, NC from 12:15 – 1:15p.m. on September 5.

From 1966 to 1968, Mars Manufacturing was the largest producer of paper clothes in the United States; one of their biggest sellers was a paper dress patterned with a collage of the Yellow Pages. Sold for only $1 plus 25 cents postage, Mars soon had 80,000 orders to fill each week. Audie Bayer designed the company’s clothing, and Audie and Bob Bayer live in Asheville still. The Asheville Art Museum is pleased to give the Bayers their second “15 minutes of fame” with the exhibit, Groovy Garb, on view at the Museum from now until October 7, 2007.

On its debut in March 1966, the paper dress hit a fashion and consumer market primed to embrace it. To promote its new line of “hip” print paper products, the Scott Paper Company advertised a choice of two “Paper Caper” dresses “created to make you the conversation piece at parties” for $1 plus postage. Orders poured in. From its beginning, the paper dress was linked with both fashion and novelty.

Paper dresses appealed on several levels. They were new and thus modern – daring, cheap, disposable, and most of all, fun. They fit a consumer culture dominated by youth and popular images of breezy, hip, humor embodied in James Bond, The Avengers, Batman, and That Girl. They were certainly not your mother’s dress, and offered a way to try out bolder patterns, new styles, and shorter lengths without real investment. As the original promotion said, “Wear it for kicks, then give it the air!”

In 1966 Mars Manufacturing of Asheville, NC, which made hosiery, was also poised to step into the paper whirl created by Scott. When Bard and Bayer attended the 1966 National Notions Trade Show in New York City the demand for Scott’s “Paper Caper” dresses made the line created by Mars an easy sell. They brokered deals with major fashion retailers Abraham & Strauss and Gimbels to produce special lines for them, adding other major stores as time went on. Later they expanded into the commercial premium business for companies including Master Charge and Time Magazine. By the end of the year, they had produced close to 100,000 dresses.

The Asheville Art Museum is open 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m on Sunday. The Museum is open every Friday until 8:00 p.m. Special docent-guided tour packages are available for groups and students. The Museum is located in the Pack Place Education, Arts and Science Center, 2 South Pack Square, in downtown Asheville. Admission to the Museum is $6.00 for adults and $5.00 for seniors, students with ID and for children 4-15 (children age three and younger are admitted free). Members are admitted free to the Museum. The Asheville Art Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums and receives general operating support from businesses, foundations and individuals, as well as from the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of North Carolina, and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

(Images provided by the Asheville Art Museum.)

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