Communist Fashion Congresses

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From that period onward, the official fashions were exhibited in glamorous fashion drawings and photo shoots in state-owned women's magazines, representative fashion shows, and ambitious presentations at domestic and foreign trade fairs. However, clothing design, production, and distribution remained highly centralized throughout the communist world, leading eventually to serious shortages and dilution of quality. A glamorous official communist version of fashion existed as an ideological construct, despite the shortages and poor quality of clothes in everyday life. Annual fashion congresses between communist countries, at which new fashions were proposed and adopted, began in 1949 and continued through the end of the communist period.

As the need for an official communist fashion increased at the end of the 1950s, when the regimes rushed to clothe their emerging communist middle classes, the fashion congress became more ambitious and rotated among communist capitals, for which participant coun tries prepared collections of prototypes. The official communist fashions included orgies of luxurious fabrics and extravagant cuts for excessive evening wear and day wear of ensembles of overcoats and matching dresses or conservative suits, accompanied by ladylike handbags, shoes with high heels, hats, and gloves. This conservative style was diluted into anonymous and moderate dress codes through official womens' and fashion magazines. Media insistence on timeless and classical sartorial aesthetics conformed with socialist values of modesty and moderation and discomfort with individuality and unpredictability.

As the race between West and East to industrialize transformed into competition over standards of living and consumption, political and social shifts affected communist fashion trends. After decades of rejection of Western fashion, Christian Dior presented a prominent fashion show in Moscow in 1959, and in Prague in 1966. In 1967 an international fashion festival took place in Moscow, presenting both Western and East European collections. Coco Chanel's presentation was recognized as the best current trend, but the grand prix was awarded to the Russian designer Tatiana Osmerkina for a dress called "Russia." When mass culture and Western youthful dress and music trends could not be held back anymore, the communist regimes officially recognized a rationalized version of consumption, and the Five Year Plans in the 1960s and 1970s addressed fashion and appearance concerns. The fashions in the plans, however, did not materialize in the shops.

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