** Soviet economy: feminism

Soviet Clothing Industry: Fashion (1959)

Soviet fashion
Figure 1.--Ascpart of De-Stalinization, the Sovier Fasgion indudtry negan to change. Fashion shows were no long banned and the KGB stopped arrestung peopole vecauuse of how they dressed. This set in motion a class of culture wehen French modes weariung the katest Oarisian fashions arrived in Moiscow (1959). Western fashions in general would have shovkedthe Soviet people, but Christian Dior was in a a class of its own. We are not sure what the building in the background is.

There was a deep social divide with how Russians dressed historically affluent Russians wore Oarisian fashions and clothes made in luxurious fabrics while the vast peasantry trapped in mdevil serfdom wore clothes made at home from rough home-spin fabrics. This had change somewhat by yhe advent of the 20th century. Russian had a rapidly growing economy weith new industries, rapidly expanding cities, and a still small but growing middle-class which dresses fashionably, but not necessarily luxriously. Still there was an enormous fashion divide with the still huge peasantry and groeing industrial working-class. This was deep resented by the indystrialworking class, more than the less politically aware rural peasantry. One source writes, "The bitterness of the ower classes towards anyone who carried the outer signs of the privleged classes became accentuated to the extent that it was impossible, for instance, to travel in the tram [city streetcars] without becoming the target of cursing." [Maler, pp. 56, 98.] During the Civil War people could be shot by the Red Guards by the way they dressed, identifying them as class enemies. And these attitudes persisted in Russin society into the Soviet era. The question of fashion was hotly debated in Soviet newspaoers and magazimnes. (The same occrred with even more venom in Communist China during the Maoist era--it was the nature of the collosion of fashion and Communism. Any type of freedom such as fashion inevitably collides with Comminism.) One historian writes, "At the time it would have been difficult to omagine that these hated objects, which in the eyes of the victorious proletariat symbolized the former luxurious life iof the exploiters, would in less than 20 years turn into cherished symbols of the real socislist culture legitimsted by Soviet power. Nevertheless, the association between the sovial status of the citizen and his or her clothing, dress code, etc., which went back in history was deeply rooted in the consciousness of the common man and woman, never totally disappeared in later Soviet times either." [Grownow and Zhuravelev] Soviet fashion became a running joke during the Stalinst era when even high functionaries travelng to the West arrived in baggy ill-fitting suits. I can recall when I showed my Russian history students Soviet films (supplied by the Soviet Embassy), the girls in particular were starteled by the fashions they saw (1970s). One TV wag made a joke showing a plump Soviet woman in a dowdy, baggy dress and then for evening wear (meaning going out to a fashionable event), the same woman and drab, baggy dress holding a flash light. The Soviets made attemots at fashion, but could never get it right--Western jeans commanded at high prices throughout the Soviet era. One fascinating episode in the Cold War is when French fashion icon, Christian Dior, somehow managed to send three willoy French models in the latest Parisian fashions to Moscow -- Dior in Moscow (1959). Fashion was a dilemma for Soviet leaders. They were somewhat embarassed that they and the population of a People's Pardicee dressed so shabably, but on the other hand saw fashion as a distraction and a waste of resources in the Cold War struggle with the United States. The consumer sector in general was neglected in favor of heavy industry and the military. This showed up in the famous Kitchen Debate between Anerican Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park, one of Moscow's important municipal parks (1959). The problem for the Soviet's was human nature. They were trying to build the new Soviet Man. (The Soviet's always talked abiout the new Soviet Man, never the New Soviet Woman.) But despite years of Soviet teaching and proppganda, Russian women wanted to look (cosmetics were an even greater Soviet failure) and dress well.


Gronow, Jukka and Sergey Zhuravlev. Fashion Meets Socialism: Fashion Industry in the Soviet Union after the Second World War (Finnish Literature Society: 2015).

Maler, N. "Shuzhba v. Komissariate yustitsii i narodnom sude." In Arkchiv russkoi revolutsii. T. VIII (Berlin: 1923).


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Created: 12:48 PM 9/11/2021
Last updated: 12:48 PM 9/11/2021