East European Communist Dress

The Soviet system of centralized production and distribution of clothes was forced on East European countries after 1948, when the communists seized power, regardless of their previously higher levels of technical and stylistic skill in clothing design and production. The East European communist regimes embraced early Soviet ideology, officially rejecting Western fashion. East European communist dress was not only born inside a reality burdened with postwar material poverty, but also inside a reality stripped of all previous clothing references. Clothing was forbidden to evoke beauty or elegance. It was officially claimed that functional, simple, and classless communist dress, which would fulfill all the sartorial needs of working women, would result from serious scientific and technical research.

In the following decades, however, the East European communist regimes' attitudes toward clothes and fashion were influenced by political changes in the Soviet Union. A new ideological turn occurred when Khrushchev affirmed his rule in 1956 and declared war on excessive Stalinist aesthetics. Leaving the worst practices of Stalinist isolationism behind, Khrushchev opened the U.S.S.R. to the West. In the late 1950s, official attitudes toward Western fashion mellowed in the communist countries. Nonetheless, with neither tradition nor market, and aspiring to control fashion change within their centralized fashion systems, the communist regimes could not keep up with Western fashion trends. By the end of the 1950s, the official version of communist fashion returned to traditional sartorial expressions and practices of traditional femininity, bearing witness to the regimes' inability to create a genuine communist fashion.

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