From plaid coat to beret. We are looking into the autumn wardrobe of a Muscovite woman of the 1970s

September 11

The 1970s set the tone for the following decades — that era style was repeatedly quoted in collections of fashion houses designers across the world. Many of its features are reflected in today's fashion. What clothes a Muscovite woman kept in her wardrobe in the 1970s and what of them is still appropriate today, says Daria Serezhkina, a researcher at the Fashion Museum exhibition center.

Stand Out in the Crowd

The 1970s were a time of stagnation. European fashion began to penetrate to the USSR during the Thaw (ottepel in Russian), but it was still far from the final fall of the Iron Curtain. The clothes still had to be strict, modest and utilitarian. Design bureaus and model houses developed clothing samples to be used for sewing standard clothes in factories around the country.

In autumn, many women wore a jacket and a knee length or below knee length skirt (today we call this length "midi") in a muted hue — gray, green, burgundy, brown. An example is this suit made of blended fabric with an abstract pattern, from the Fashion Museum collection. Although it was bought in the GDR (German Democratic Republic), where women wore mini at the time, the skirt length is in full compliance with Soviet ideas of decency.

Suit made of blended fabric with an abstract pattern. Fashion Museum

Office Romance movie by Eldar Ryazanov, shot in 1977, perfectly demonstrates Soviet women’s work wear. The brown suit worn by heroine of Alica Freindlich in the first part of the film, looked as if recently made on production line: non-stainable, inconspicuous and with a “serious” length skirt. However, the image of Lyudmila Prokofievna before transformation does not look absolutely tasteless today — on the contrary, with proper styling and some adjustments to the cut, her suite can look extremely modern.

A frame from the Office Romance movie. Directed by E. Ryazanov. 1977

A typical example of Soviet women's outfit “when out visiting” is a red wool dress, from the museum's collection. It combines several stylistic features of the decade: knitted perforation on the chest, a sun skirt just below knee long and puffed sleeves. The model is very similar to those printed in the Western Fashions section of the Moscow House of Models catalogs.

Wool dress. Fashion Museum

Trousers were quite an ordinary item of women's wardrobe abroad, but in the USSR of late 1960s, only some girls were brave enough to wear them, and in the 1970s they became an attribute of progressive girls. A popular material at that time was warm synthetic crimplene, these straight trousers with a high waist were sewn from it. And this burgundy crimplene two-piece suite was definitely worn by a fashionable woman — flared trousers were as fashionable at that time, as they are now.

Crimplene trousers (on the left). Crimplene suit (on the right). Fashion Museum

Women wore straight coats like in the past decades, and they were dark — brown, green, burgundy. At that very time, fashionable in Europe plaid coats came to the USSR, they are considered to be a classical style today. The museum's collection contains a single-breasted beige-pink coat with a turn-down collar. Its fortunate possessor was definitely noticed in the crowd. And this double-breasted dark green drape coat looks so modern that, probably, today's fashionista would not refuse to try it on.

Plaid coat (on the left). Drape coat (on the right). Fashion Museum

This factory-made black double-breasted jacket looks like it was re-tailored from a men's military pea jacket, only slightly fitted. Many women did retailoring — clothes were not kept as a reserve, but would be cut and re-sewed if necessary. The woman added another fashionable detail — a black and white faux fur collar. Practical hooded coats were also popular at that time. The hood saved from rain and wind, and the belt, like that of the brown flared coat, made the silhouette more feminine.

Jacket with a faux fur collar (on the left). Hooded coat (on the right). Fashion Museum

"Samostrok" vs. "Firma"

Jeans became the most desirable thing in the 1970s. Do you remember, Nadia Klyueva's colleagues in the comedy The Most Charming and Attractive, say: "The most backward segments of population have put on jeans" The movie was released in 1985, when the situation was changing, but then, in the 1970s, rare owners of real branded jeans were lucky fellows. They were worn to the holes and laundered very carefully. Once jeans were worn out, rivets and a zipper were removed, and skirts or bags were sewn from the fabric. In 1974, the Rabochaya Odezhda (Working clothes) factory began to produce trousers made of blue cotton fabric, sewn like American jeans, but only vaguely resembling them.

A frame from the The Most Charming and Attractive movie. Directed by G. Bezhanov. 1985

Jeans and imported clothes could sometimes be found in foreign exchange stores or bought from resellers. At that time, the expression "branded wear", or "firma" (with an emphasis on the last syllable) came into general use. Branded wear was immediately noticeable, they were very different from the typical Soviet one. This Finnish jacket made of crimson crimplene with a pattern in the form of orange cucumbers probably attracted a lot of surprised and admiring glances. And this crimson plaid wool jacket with a black shawl collar from the GDR too. This raincoat made of a blended fabric resembling boiled jeans was also trendy, as well as this Austrian dress with a red-orange print and purple flowers in the hippie style.

Our answer to “firma” was “samostrok or “samopal” — things individually sewn according to fashion trends. All USSR women had sewing skills, it was learned at school household classes. Therefore, those who could sew well, were usually the most fashionable women. Fashion magazines always contained sewing patterns. Besides, many women could make an outfit themselves, similar to the one worn by a foreign actress.

Heels and Stockings

In the 1970s, women practically did not wear flat shoes — kitten heels and low square heels were in fashion. In warm weather, women could wear shoes like these black patent leather ones. Low shoes were popular autumn footwear, and in rainy weather — rubber galoshes.

Patent leather high-heel shoe. Fashion Museum

The most fashionable shoes in the USSR of mid-1970s were patent leather knee boots-stockings. They rarely appeared in stores to be immediately purchased. The most desperate fashionistas wore them until the end of November and proudly walked on the first snow. Such kitten heeled knee boots made in Cyprus, are now museum exhibits.

Zippered knee boots. Fashion Museum

Ordinary stockings were also worn. The most desirable ones were made of nylon, despite their thinness. But mostly women wore warm knitted stockings in muted gray and beige shades.

They covered their heads with hats. Felt hats and pillbox hats were in fashion. Felt berets were also popular. Berets and hats could be decorated with felted flowers or a brooch.

Felt beret. Fashion Museum

The fashionable image was completed by bags made of leatherette or leather of a plain shape — rectangular, square, trapezoidal. This small handbag with a bow is as an example.

Leather bag. Fashion Museum


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