We use cookies on this website, you can read about them here. To use the website as intended please... ACCEPT COOKIES
UAL Research Online

Fashion East: the spectre that haunted socialism

Bartlett, Djurdja (2010) Fashion East: the spectre that haunted socialism. In: Centre for South-East European Studies Seminar Series 2010-11, 01 February 2011, London, UK. (Unpublished)

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Bartlett, Djurdja

The idea of fashion under socialism conjures up images of babushka headscarves and black market blue jeans. And yet, as Djurdja Bartlett shows in this groundbreaking book, the socialist East had an intimate relationship with fashion. Official antagonism—which cast fashion as frivolous and antirevolutionary—eventually gave way to grudging acceptance and creeping consumerism.

Bartlett outlines three phases in socialist fashion, and illustrates them with abundant images from magazines of the period: postrevolutionary utopian dress, official state-sanctioned socialist fashion, and samizdat-style everyday fashion. Utopian dress, ranging from the geometric abstraction of the constructivists under Bolshevism in the Soviet Union to the no-frills desexualized uniform of a factory worker in Czechoslovakia, reflected the revolutionary urge for a clean break with the past. The highly centralized socialist fashion system, part of Stalinist industrialization, offered official prototypes of high fashion that were never available in stores—mythical images of smart and luxurious dresses that symbolized the economic progress that socialist regimes dreamed of. Everyday fashion, starting in the 1950s, was an unofficial, do-it-yourself enterprise: Western fashions obtained through semiclandestine channels or sewn at home. The state tolerated the demand for Western fashion, promising the burgeoning middle class consumer goods in exchange for political loyalty.

Bartlett traces the progress of socialist fashion in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, and Yugoslavia, drawing on state-sponsored socialist women’s magazines, etiquette books, socialist manuals on dress, private archives, and her own interviews with designers, fashion editors, and other key figures. Fashion, she suggests, with all its ephemerality and dynamism, was in perpetual conflict with the socialist regimes’ fear of change and need for control. It was, to echo the famous first sentence from the Communist Manifesto, the spectre that haunted socialism until the end.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

The seminar lecture was part of the book launch for Fashion East: the spectre that haunted socialism The MIT PRESS: ISBN-10: 0-262-02650-3 - ISBN-13: 978-0-262-02650-5

Djurdja Bartlett also gave a public lecture at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 4 February 2011 with Valerie Steel (Co contributor)

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: Socialist fashion, post-socialist fashion and consumption, comparative fashion studies, cultural theory, East and West European fashion
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Date: October 2010
Related Websites: http://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/4556/, http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=12258, http://www.fashion.arts.ac.uk/djurdja-bartlett.htm, http://www.wornthrough.com/2011/02/page/3/
Related Websites:
Event Location: London, UK
Projects or Series: Research Outputs Review (April 2010 - April 2011)
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2012 11:17
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2013 15:46
Item ID: 4526
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/4526

Repository Staff Only: item control page | University Staff: Request a correction