International Fashion Congresses of the 1950s and 1960s as Sites for Showing Off Soviet Fashion

By Larissa Zakharova

International Fashion Congresses of the 1950s and 1960s as the Site for the Production of Soviet Fashion.

As the socialist bloc emerged, the bipolar vision of the world extended to the world of fashion. International Fashion Congresses served as opportunities for designers of Central and Eastern European countries and of the Soviet Union to assemble annually. These Congresses became occasions to conceptualize and legitimate a specifically socialist model of fashion, defined in opposition to bourgeois fashion. In this way, politics began to shape clothing design, regulating socialist « taste » and what people wore. However, the designers themselves were as fascinated as ever by French haute couture, whose trends and theoretical principles remained the absolute standard to follow, albeit in a somewhat disguised manner. But the Congresses were also seen as places to exchange know-how concerning styles and how they might be elaborated within a system of mass planning and production. That required the presence of industrial officials who looked at fashion with a more practical eye, thus restraining the creativity of the designers. Because the International Fashion Congresses figured in the preparation of the collections, the selection of the designs, and the methods of public presentation, they permit us to analyse the interaction between Soviet administrators, designers and consumers, and thus to re-evaluate the process of normalization of everyday life.

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