Polish Fashion of 1950s - Fashion Stardust

Polish Fashion of 1950s. Scarce goods - everything.

Fashion, which has as the background the sum of social phenomena,
always has a wide economic and political dimension. In Poland, the
decade of the 1950s was the effort of the economic reconstruction of
life, everything has happened as dictated by the socialist regime.
When the intrusive propaganda celebrated the successes of the
socialist miracle, showing the life in the bright light, reality was
frightening of emptiness and lack of perspectives. Still, wherever
life is rebuilt from the debris, there is usually unbelievable
poverty. In the same time, however, the promise of change. These
changes could go in the wrong direction for the government, so it was
necessary to suppress all signs of alarming, private initiative and
In the world, mainly in Europe it was the time of New Look model,
introduced by Dior, referring to the collection of nostalgic elegance
of Belle Epoque, with a tight waist, long skirt (the Corolle model) or
a tight pencil skirt (the eight model). Time of more sophisticated
lingerie, Brigitte Bardote style, big hair, the mass scale couture,
modern ready-made collections, so called. prêt-à-porter.
Simultaneously to great fashion houses, there were still existing
tailoring crafts, represented by many small businesses centres,
working in line with pre-war standards of tailoring.
In fact, in Poland, in the 1950s, fashion interested just few people.
The only existed trend was the "nothing is available" trend. There was
a lack of everything. Despite this, people always want to live a more
colorful live and the Soviet Soyuz heroine uniform didn't feet with
Polish women's taste and remained unfamiliar. Even if, temporarily,
they would lose their mental clarity. The authorities have decided to
put to good use that empty space of social life, eagerly organizing
and dressing Polish women in overalls. All available mainstream media:
cinema, TV (from 1954), posters, even the literature contents created
and glorified a new heroine – socialist hard work leader. In life not
everyone likes the same thing but in the real socialism this was
merely impossible. And basta! Girls were called by the state to take a
risk and challenge to work in men's professions. Any kind of
originality in dress code was treated as an overt provocation.
In Poland, the first 1950s provocation could be a big hair. Unless, in
the street no one was probably arrested, to the TV presenters was
impossible to make a big hair before the entry to vision, as it was
forbidden and… they couldn't have a combs! Anyway, girls were always
very ingenious and they were making big hairs, putting it slightly
higher with pencils. And subversive haircut ready! Another element -
new, fashionable bra of this period, with underwire, made famous by a
film star - Brigitte Bardot. Juxtaposed with contemporary forms of
simple and unsophisticated bras from those years, was a real breath of
luxury. In those days, underwear and bras were made by modiste or
purchased in state shop, called PEDET. They had a certain
characteristic, strongly separated the breasts aside.
Bikiniarze – Polish version of the British Teddy Boys (also known as
Ted), subculture typified by young men wearing clothes partly inspired
by the styles by dandies, style which Savile Row tailors had attempted
to re-introduce after the Wolrd War II. In Poland this subculture was
wearing the colourful outfits, long hair, so hated by the communist
regime. Also colourful women's magazines from abroad, too
sophisticated outfit from the tailor, and colours were the main
threat. Young people wanted to be fashionable and searched the point
of reference. This kind of point were for sure artists, as girls from
the Academy of Fine Arts, which immediately distinguish themselves
from the gray mass of nylon on the Polish streets. Frequently,
colorful fabrics were somehow smuggled behind the Iron Curtain. Women,
though, always in every time and culture wanted to look nice, but in
communist regime not always (outside the big cities) had reference
point and the prototype.
The situation was saved by prewar tailors and dressmakers (modiste),
operating mostly in "black" as the private initiative was forbidden or
taking work at home or going and spending f.e. one week in customer's
house, making clothes for entire family. Those dressmakers were often
from rural areas. And so, they had a chance to get the remnants of the
materials/fabrics or to buy something and spread new trends in small
Polish rural localities. In this way New Look came also to us. And so,
fashion and world's trends, despite the efforts of alarmed authorities
were spread under thatched roofs of "uncontaminated" Polish society.
Women had - if any - one dress for all occasions, miraculously had
tights dyed in coffee or tea, repaired when torn, sometimes purchased
old sweaters on the market, coming from the West, and renewed with
different "home techniques". In the villages there was a lot worse, a
dress - after fulfilling its role - was the material to the skirt or
trousers for the younger generations. In short, each material/fabric
was respected and had many incarnations, often more ingenious than the
original one. A few meters away of material, for many women, was more
important that 500% of socialist "norm". This was the same piece of
material that I do not know where put today? And yet, because I can
not throw it away, something of the genetic pool of our mothers is
still in our veins.
I have no desire to return to such extremes - poverty and closing - or
the lack of perspectives, only the desire to reflect on the
destructive consequences of the excess of everything nowadays, excess
or even the perdition in consumption, not only in the field of
fashion. Not only in excess of ornaments – we don't wear anything
nowadays – but the perdition in fashion which has no more seasons,
identity, seasons. Fashion must have a past, present and future. Today
we do not even know those concepts in fashion. Is the woman is
post-modern dandy, living to reveal as much of her thin body?
I don't mean to call all women to sew dresses, me myself have problems
and struggle all day long with a sewing machine, instead to sew a
button with my new machine I had almost brake my cat's eye and my
finger finished in sewing machine (instead of a button, that was
orbiting away).
And yet, because I cannot throw it (the material, a button or a cat:),
something of the genetic pool of our mothers is left in me. So nice
fabric, even if from a different era… Durable, nylon, artificial, even
homespun, still I will keep it. We will see how long it will resist…
Jadwiga Grabowska – a legend of Polish Fashion, an artistic director
of fashion house, in 1958 created by her under the same name "Moda
Polska" (Polish Fashion) in time of a severe hard times of a red
terror, she gave the background to the contemporary Polish fashion. In
1950s and 1060s she filled the emptiness of Polish streets. The
designers were, among others, Grażyna Hase, Barbara Hoff and Jerzy
Antkowiak. The models were, among others, Teresa Tuszyńska, Małgorzata
Niemen and Agnieszka Martyna.
Jadwiga Grabowska also helped to create such fashion houses as
Telimena, Leda, Cora. She was the only link for Polish fashion world
with the World's trends, who dressed also Polish dignitaries and
prepared twice a year collection at a fashion shows. J. Grabowska, was
often called by Jerzy Antkowiak the Polish Coco Chanel. In his
opinion, Grabowska was a great lady, whose merit was to create as much
as possible substitutes of the fashionable world of Paris in a red

Barbara Hoff - in 1954, while she was still a student, started
cooperation with the weekly "Przekrój". In the magazine, where she
worked until 2002, she had her special fashion column and published
essays and projects. Also collaborated with the weekly "Szpilki",
"Kobieta I Styl" and "Filipinka".

B. Hoff in 1970s began to design collections of clothes, which were
produced on a mass scale by the founded by her fashion house
"Hoffland", providing clothes to big fashion stores – "Domy Towarowe
Centrum", "Galeria Centrum". The cooperation ended in 2007. Hoffland
operated outside the system of centrally controlled commerce. She was
the first person in Europe to create a big mass fashion production
under her own name.

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