International diy vs national fashion
In spite of the propaganda touted by the government about modest and practical dress for women, the ‘New Look’ that was taking over the West also reached the banks of the Vistula river. A style launched in 1947 by Christian Dior featured a fitted jacket with a narrow waist that flared at the hips, worn with a matching skirt that extended down to the mid-calf.
Polish women couldn’t afford to shop at any of the French designers. Instead, they opted to replicate these trendy looks on their own sewing machines at home or at trusted tailor’s workshops based on photographs clipped from the foreign press (which wasn’t easy to come by either) or paparazzi photos of stars like Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot.
Local magazines promoted DIY fashion, advising its readers on how to recreate these coveted looks in the comfort of their own homes. Sewing was a skill mastered by most women under socialism. The allure of Western fashion had caught on and was an impossible spell to break. By the end of the 1950s, the state established its own fashion houses that would offer flagship collections, as well as designer textiles, individual pieces and complete outfits. While it wasn’t enough to cater to the needs of the entire market, it brought fashion to the greater Polish public.
Over time, magazines continued to share news on how to dress in the Parisian style, while, at the same time, expanding its coverage of Italian, British and American fashion, along with the latest ‘youth’ trends. The youngest generations of Poles made up an independent social group and consumer category, as bikini beatniks and pussycats swept out onto the streets, dancing to rock’n’roll till the sun came up.