From the hat to the shoes. What die Muscovites wear to meet spring in the middle of the 20th century

April 4

The fashion runs in cycles, as researchers say, and much of what we will wear tomorrow was already invented in the 20th century. Therefore, you can find inspiration not only in glossy magazines, but also in museum halls. The collection of the Fashion Museum contains a lot of exhibits that can give food for thought to both a designer and just a fan of interesting looks. Let’s look at clothes with the spirit of spring, i.e. the things that could be seen from March to May on the streets of Moscow in the middle of the last century.

Straight silhouette and small printing

In the early 1950s, the USSR was experiencing the consequences of the Great Patriotic War. Light industry, which recently worked only for the needs of the front, had not yet fully recovered. As after the war, many women adapted military uniforms for everyday life, re-sewing and transforming overcoats and jackets. This method became popular among fashion designers of the All-Union House of Clothing Models, who came up with new seasonal collections. In the first half of the 1950s, women's coats were often similar to military men's, but with adjustments for the female figure — shortened, with a narrowed waist and tucks on the chest. In general, women's fashion of that time was practically no different from the trends of the previous decade with its characteristic strict straight silhouettes.

The Soviet fashion lagged far behind the European trends. The Western world rocked a new style with a narrow waist and a full skirt in 1947. Christian Dior's invention made the ladies look like an hourglass. Women of the USSR wore figure-concealing clothing at that time. The image of a modest woman was promoted in society, and it considered indecent to stand out. Therefore, in spring, women in the street of Moscow wore wide-shouldered coats of thick wool or boucle (a fabric with characteristic knots on the surface, resembling karakul), in black, gray or beige colors.

Calico, crepe de chine, or marquisette dresses of various colors, often in small flowers, dots, or checks could be seen from under their coats. If a Muscovite was in a hurry to work, then she was most likely wearing a two-piece suit: a jacket with three-quarter sleeves and a straight or a-line skirt, most often made of wool or moire. The image was complemented by gloves and a scarf around the neck. A right hat made of felt sat of her head, and boot-like shoes with ties and low heels were on her feet. Stilettos would only come into fashion in the late 1960s, and before that, a high heel was considered something indecent. Just like the pants, by the way. The character of Svetlana Svetlichnaya in “The Diamond Hand” was clearly perceived by Soviet viewers as a relaxed and windy lady thanks to her daring pantsuit. At the same time, the character of Nina Grebeshkova — a model of a Soviet woman — appears on the screen only in a dress or a suit with a skirt.

Foreign trends

The Soviet fashion gradually began to change during the Thawing. i.e. since 1953. The Iron Curtain was slightly opened. For example, in 1957, the World Festival of Youth and Students was held in Moscow, and international relations were actively developing. Athletes and actors began to go on tour and bring fashion magazines and clothes with them. The world trends gradually seeped into the USSR. But since this practically did not affect the mass production of clothing, the Soviet women began to sew or re-sew outfits themselves according to the western models.

There was an active cultural exchange with the Eastern bloc countries at that time: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary. The local shoes — boots or patent leather pumps were especially popular. Wealthy ladies could afford to bring coats from abroad. A brown double-breasted gabardine coat, which is now kept in the Fashion Museum, was made in the 1960s in the Eastern Germany and brought to the USSR, probably by a diplomat’s wife. Interestingly, its straight silhouette is not much different from the one adopted in the 1950s in the Soviet Union.


Two dresses of the 1950s, which are kept in the museum's collections, are also characteristic of that time: one is made of a mixed fabric in black and white check, and the other is made of crepe de chine of a milky shade. Both dresses are below the knee, with the three-quarters or one-second sleeves. The waist is not defined: it is only slightly emphasized in a white dress by an elastic band, and is indicated by a cut in a checkered dress.

Accessories are the must

A hat was considered a mandatory accessory of the spring image of the 1950s. The headdresses were of various shapes, colors, and color combinations. For example, the museum keeps a red felt hat with a brim, decorated with dark blue braid with tassels. Round-shaped hats were also popular — like this burgundy one with felt flowers. During hot days the fashionistas wore straw caps. The museum’s collection shows a black cap of such a type. Previously, it belonged to the Leningrad theater director Olga Mikhaltseva-Soboleva. The cap was donated to the museum by her heirs. In the 1960s, pillbox hats, berets, and turbans became the most fashionable accessories.

Women decorate themselves by tying a bright scarf made of satin or silk on their heads or necks (nylon was in fashion in the 1960). There were all kinds of colors, as well as prints — dots, checks, and flowers. Traditional ornaments of different nationalities of the USSR were also popular. The Soviet symbols were also in trend, for example, as on this silk scarf. In addition to floral motifs, the main symbol of Exhibition of Economic Achievements is depicted in the center — “Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman”. This scarf was worn by Maria Kovrigina, who in the 1950s served as the Minister of Health of the USSR. Today, the scarf is kept in the Fashion Museum, along with a leopard-print handbag that also belonged to Kovrigina. This bag, made in the 1960s, follows the shape of the then popular string bag. It is made of nylon fabric. Leather bags were already considered unfashionable in those days, and Muscovites were happy to choose leatherette and other artificial materials.

Synthetics and space

The textile revolution took place all over the world in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was the time when polyester, lycra, and acrylic were invented, and nylon began to be actively used in the light industry. They were easier to wash, almost did not crumple, and some did not pass moisture at all. The new production required significant funding, so synthetic fabrics at that time were more expensive than natural ones.

In the 1960s, one could often see raincoats of bologna on the spring streets of Moscow. Their production started in 1962 at the Naro-Fominsk Silk Factory. The coats were expensive — between 60 to 80 rubles, which was half the average salary of that time. Initially, such light and practical raincoats were worn by Italian workers in the city of Bologna (hence the name). But Muscovites were happy to wear them as fashionable outerwear in rainy weather.

Synthetics were favored since it could be dyed in any color. Thus, dark utilitarian raincoats were replaced by bright ones. Such as, for example, this yellow nylon raincoat with black checks. It came with a scarf that could be worn in the rain. This raincoat and scarf were made in Latvia in the 1960s and brought to Moscow, possibly by an actress. Things from the Baltic States were very much appreciated by Soviet ladies. It can be assumed that the former owner of this cloak did not go unnoticed.

At this time, space was being actively developed and all new materials, some of which were later used in light industry, were initially produced for astronauts. After the flight of Yuri Gagarin in 1961, there was a real boom in fashion for clothing and accessories related to the space theme. That included round hats resembling the helmets of spacesuits, and dresses made of “space” fabric. This white flared dress with a heart pattern is made of fabric that was used to make spacesuits. According to those who wore clothes made of such a fabric, it was very hot in it — but fashion look requires sacrifices.

Despite the inconvenience, Muscovites of the 1960s were happy to go in bright coats and stocking boots made of artificial leather, nylon blouses and tight-fitting sweaters with high necks, which were called turtlenecks. Long nylon gloves completed the look.


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