NEW PATTERNS of wrapping paper sometimes arrive on the scene one year and disappear quietly the next. But despite one Scrooge's conclusion that "Honey, wrap is wrap," gift wrapping paper this year is a many-splendored, multi-hued thing.
Jane Young, manager of public information for Hallmark, says consumers today want more sophisticated patterns. "Part of it is the economy. People can't go out and buy a gift for say, under five dollars. Now they're spending about $10 or $15, and they want to show with their wrap that they spent some money."
Young also thinks that smaller is better this Christmas: smaller Swiss dots, smaller holy leaves, smaller Santas. "Oh yeah, the days of the big designs are gone. And so are the years of crazy colors. Now we're finding more traditional Christmas colors: reds, darker greens and deeper hues of burgundy."
But the most important trend in gift wrap is the way it's keeping up with the fashion and interior design industries. One Hallmark official pointed out that "as the fashion and interior design industries go, so goes the gift wrapSee WRAP, Page 2, Col. 1 WRAP, From Page 1 industry." Meredith Renoldi of the Smithsonian Shops agrees. Metallics are big in fashions now, and foils are big in paper: "Two out of our three Christmas papers this year are foil again," she says. "One is an embossed foil paper taken from 19th-century endpapers in the Cooper-Hewitt prints collection. It even comes in two different colors." The other, "Silver Cups," is a nonmetallic paper taken from an 18th-century lithograph.
Metallics are so big at Garfinckel's that spokeswoman Dorethe Whitehead says, "We even have a ribbon with a metallic stripe running through it." Garfinckel's also has "lots of foil papers, the traditional assortment of more traditional candy canes, and some very unusual silk-screen papers. They're very elegant and sophisticated, and they're on a more durable paper."
At Woodward and Lothrop, the influence of fashion on gift wrap can be seen in their preppie papers. You guessed it: "We have a paper with alligators and another one with polo players" a la Ralph Lauren, according to assistant buyer Sally Hart. Preppie is in to wear and it's in for wrapping.
At Bloomingdale's, Deborah Clark notes that Lauren's and LaCoste's logos have jumped off of paper and onto boxes: "Sure, we have boxes for presents with the preppie look. You can wrap your purchases in them this way and not deal with paper at all. They're very convenient."
Another alternative can be found in the preppie tote bags that Woodies is carrying. Once again the theme is alligators and polo players. The tote bags can be used as the wrapping for presents, or as the carrying bag for them.
As alternatives to paper, several area stores now carry boxes for gift giving. At the Smithsonian, Renoldi says, "They're high-gloss varnished -- not ugly cardboard -- -and they come with views of planets, nebulae and stars." There are even a few with that old-fashioned Santa Claus look."
Woodies also has wine bags for gift giving "if you want to dress up a bottle." If you are more inclined to dress up a baby's bottle than a bottle of Scotch, there are also wrapping papers with Kermit the Frog of Muppet fame on them for the kids.
Tom Coleman of Berwick Industries, a ribbon-making concern, says that different manufacturing procedures and changes in style have made gift wrap and trim more affordable.
"Years ago all ribbon was fabric or yarn," Coleman says. "Now we can make plastic ribbons which simulate the early stuff, but are more durable and just as stylish."
"To make the plastic ribbon we melt down white plastic pellets and mix in coloring for whatever color you want." Coleman explains that the melted material is then pushed through an extruder that forms it into wide sheets 36 inches wide. . . . These sheets are then brought into a 'slitting room' where they are sheared into desired widths. This ribbon is high gloss, you can curl it, you can tear it, just as you could with fabric ribbon, but it costs one-third less. The plastic ribbon can even be embossed, flocked to simulate velvet, or given a satin finish."
Ribbons are expected to sell very well this year. Jane Young at Hallmark notes that they have become more important in the past few years. So has trim of all kinds. "Since people are sending more packages through the mail now, they're looking for trim to spruce them up -- especially trim that will travel well. Silk flowers, for instance, or if you're a cook, wooden spoons. And durable ribbons too."
Of course there are other alternatives to traditional holiday wrapping paper and trim. Reynolds Wrap can be used to wrap more than Thanksgiving turkeys. It conforms easily to any package, it's attractive looking, and you can usually find it in a kitchen drawer.
There is another school that wraps with newspaper. (The British have used it with fish and chips for years, so why not use it for presents?) Although it has a tendency to smudge, newspaper is inexpensive, easy to find and it comes in pre-cut lengths.
One final possibility is wallpaper. My mother, an interior designer, always used leftover samples from the living room redecoration, or scraps from some client's kitchen. Wallpaper comes in many colorful patterns, and it's very durable.
You do have to remember whose home is papered with what, though. I rue the day that I walked in with a birthday present for a school chum, who said, "Boy this looks just like that new stuff in our dining room . . ."