Translating Fashion: Eastern Europe, Western Europe, 1910-2010

Lead Research Organisation: University of the Arts London
Department Name: London College of Fashion

Abstract

This research identifies the processes of mutual reflections, appropriations, hybridisations, reciprocal fascinations and misunderstandings, which characterised the translations between East European and Russian fashion, and its western counterpart throughout the 20th century to the present day. From that historical and comparative analysis, this research focuses on previously unrecorded, dress-mediated discourse between East Europe and the West, which adjusted to, but also influenced, social, political, cultural and aesthetic movements.

This research addresses the dynamics of the relationship between East European and western fashion in the context of confrontations between modernist and anti-modernist tendencies in dress, changes in gender representations and consumer practices. The differences and similarities between dress practices in East and West, as well as between East European countries themselves, provide a more complete picture of fashion in general, but also identify the types of modernity associated with the different social, political and cultural frameworks, from capitalist to socialist and post-socialist society.

Fashion is one of the most important expressions of modernity in the West, but this research also interrogates the role of fashion in the struggles of the East European countries to be national and modern, vernacular and cosmopolitan. By reversing the narrative which privileged western fashion, this research advances the existing knowledge of the relationship between East European and Western fashion through original Russian and East European archival documents and images. New or rarely seen materials from western sources, such as the archives of the leading fashion houses will be used to demonstrate their activities in Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as continuing East European influences on their collections.

In addition to the analysis of dress and artefacts from each country, this research will interrogate the national media in Eastern Europe and the West, from fashion and women's magazines to illustrated monthlies and weeklies, art and applied journals, daily newspapers, and documentary and feature films. The printed media and film were crucial both in the promotion of modernity, its urban and cosmopolitan rituals, including fashion, and its visual language in the West. The media also played a critical role in the transmission of these phenomena into Eastern Europe. These societies embraced western modernity and developed their own rituals in the inter-war period, only to be made to create their own versions of modernity and fashion during the socialist period.

From the beginning of the 20th century, new, modernity-related rituals facilitated the advance of fashion from the upper classes to the lower middle and urban working class women of cities such as Berlin, Budapest, London, Moscow, Paris, Prague, St Petersburg, Vienna, Warsaw and Zagreb. This research will reveal the democratisation of fashion as part of the new mass culture and a marker of the social stratification taking place in Western and Eastern Europe. It therefore offers an analysis of history based on both national difference and the class divide.

Today's fashion in Eastern Europe and Russia is contextualised within the significant political, economic and social changes brought about by the collapse of socialism and the globalisation of information and commerce. New markets, consumerist practices, modes of production and imagery all inform the changed relationship between Eastern Europe and the West. Through its textual and visual evidence this research points towards both the connections and the lost meanings in sartorial translations between East and West, thus significantly contributing towards the better understanding of the similarities, as well as the historical and current differences within a common European history.

Planned Impact

In addition to various beneficiaries within academia, the aim is to engage with potential users of the research and to communicate the research findings in the following ways:

i) Art historians and museum curators in both western and eastern institutions will benefit from the research:

a) Museums in the former socialist countries have dresses from the 1910s, the inter-war and socialist periods in their collections, but are only beginning to appreciate socialist dresses as a strong visual statement about that type of society. Some exhibitions on socialist dress have recently taken place (Moscow 2007; Budapest 2007; Moscow 2011) and Dr Bartlett will build on this by engaging with these museums with a view to initiating and assisting with the design of exhibitions which would re-evaluate the socialist period through dress. The interest in their pre-socialist past is also increasing in East European countries. Dr Bartlett has already been invited to co-curate an exhibition on Art Deco and Art in Croatia between The Two Wars (section "Fashion and Life-style", Museum for the Applied Arts, Zagreb, 2011), and has received an informal invitation to co-curate a following exhibition at the same institution that will cover the period 1940s-1960s.

b) The East European inter-war fashions and their practitioners are little known in the West, and this research will fill that gap for curators in western museums. As some artistic movements such as geometry-influenced artistic dress and Art Deco, run in parallel in East and West in the period 1910-1930s, western curators who have researched western sartorial heritage are very much interested in original research on Eastern Europe. Given this growing interest, this research will benefit institutions of this type in the future. Additionally, museums in the West are also developing an interest in socialist and post-socialist dress practices and will benefit from this research as these visual materials have previously been unavailable to them.

ii) This research will also provide a potential opportunity for knowledge transfer to UK to textile design and fashion companies interested in entering East European markets. As the post-socialist fashion markets are expanding rapidly, both creative workers and industrialists are expressing an interest in interpreting both pre-socialist and socialist dress codes in order to understand emerging markets in post-socialist countries. Dr Bartlett will therefore contact a number of such companies with a view to providing them with her expertise on socialist and post-socialist fashion trends.

iii) Based on Dr Bartlett's experience gained from previous research on socialist fashion which mapped this phenomenon (FashionEast: the Spectre That Haunted Socialism, MIT Press, 2010), it is apparent that the wider public is very much attracted to an alternative history of fashion which branches out from the well-known western narrative. This attention is embedded in the current interest in the phenomenon of fashion, but feeds into much wider interests concerning culture, politics and ideology. In this context, a visually attractive academic book will reach far beyond academia to a much wider readership.

Publications

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Description Covering the territory of present-day Austria, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Germany, this research contextualized fashion within the wide framework of nationalist and cosmopolitan politics, metropolitan cultures, mass media, consumption patterns, gender and the arts.

The Fellowship has supported research in more than forty institutions, from national libraries, archives and museums, to small specialized establishments, as well as discussions with a significant number of relevant academics and practitioners, with an aim to reverse the narrative which has historically privileged western fashion.

The inter-disciplinary analysis of contemporary pervasive phenomena such as the rise of big cities, the advance of mass media and the appearance of the New Woman as an emblem of modernity in her mediated and real existence, provided a rich vein for comparison of the less-familiar East Central European and Russian modernist narratives with the familiar narrative of western modernity.

The key findings and analysis of this conceptually, historically and geographically extensive research showed that fashionable dress universally signalled the arrival of modernity from the beginning of the twentieth century throughout the interwar period, but that its progress took place within the geographically uneven processes of industrialization and unequal urban development.

Moreover, while the existing scholarship embeds the phenomenon of modern fashion in the much-explored phenomenon of western modernity, this research made visible the previously unknown or less-known fashion histories by embedding them in their respective national narratives.

Consequently, the research uncovered a significant number of players, who lived in-and-between their respective capitals of Budapest, Prague and Warsaw, and western capitals such as Berlin and Paris, and moved equally easily between the arts and mass culture, participating in the applied arts, fashion photography, journalism, graphic design and advertising.

Analysing history based on national difference and the class divide, this research revealed that the mass media equally contributed to both the real and apparent democratization of fashion. Due to its wide popularity, fashion trends travelled across national borders, while, at the same time, the media such as film, masked the still existing social differences. These phenomena were equally present throughout the explored regions.

The research showed that the national media, from fashion and women's magazines to illustrated monthlies and weeklies, art and applied journals, daily newspapers, and documentary and feature films played a critical role in the dress-related translations between the regions covered in this research, specifically in relation to the concepts of ethnic, national and cosmopolitan.

Contextualizing the phenomenon of fashion within the significant political, economic and social changes, from the period preceding World War One through interwar era and socialist period to the collapse of socialism and the globalisation of information and commerce, the research confirmed that new markets, consumerist practices, modes of production and imagery all informed the changed relationship between Eastern Central Europe, Russia and the West.

Nevertheless, through investigation of the more recent media accounts, and the interviews with current fashion designers, the research uncovered that fashion was still a medium through which the respective nations struggle to be national and modern, vernacular and cosmopolitan.

Most significantly, through its textual and visual evidence this research revealed both the connections and the lost meanings in sartorial translations between the so-called East and so-called West, thus significantly contributing towards the better understanding of the similarities, as well as the historical and current differences within a common European history.

Through its eight academic publications (a monograph, five articles in peer-reviewed journals and two book chapters), numerous presentations at international and national conferences, seminar lectures, as well as a number of public talks, all presenting primary archival research, this project both advanced the existing framework within the studies of modernity, and contributed to global fashion history by its cross-cultural and inter-national focus.
Exploitation Route This Fellowship award facilitated a significant primary research in seven countries, which has led to an increasing number of invitations for conference papers, seminars lectures and public talks. As such conferences and workshops are widely advertised online, they have already brought more recognition to the key findings, which could lead to the further development of this new area of research.

Potential Academic Network:
The interest to develop the project further has already been expressed during two Round Tables organized during the duration of this Project:
October 2012: Round Table: 'Researching Fashion Today', The State Museum of the History of St Petersburg: Round Table organized by Julia Demidenko, art historian and Deputy Director of the Research Department, the State Museum of the History of St Petersburg, with the participation of Marina Blumin (Hermitage), Galina Gabriel (The Academy of Culture); Olga Kalashnikova (Saint Petersburg Art and Industry Academy), Julia Demidenko (The State Museum of the History of St Petersburg) and Djurdja Bartlett (London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London)
17 December 2012: Round Table: Researching Fashion Today, Kiscelli Museum, Budapest: Round Table organized by Ildikó Simonovics, Textile Curator at the Kiscelli Museum, with the participation of Katalin Földi Dózsa (fashion and dress historian), Judit Szatmárí, Eötvös Loránd University and Debrecin Fashion Academy, Ildikó Simonovics (Kiscelli Museum), and Djurdja Bartlett (London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London).
These and some other colleagues are interested to continue working collaboratively on this and similar projects. Thus an International Research Network could be a way forward.

Higher Education:
Due to its inter-disciplinary approach, this research will increasingly contribute new knowledge to the discipline of Fashion Studies, which has been mainly conceptualised around western dress practices, but also to a wider range of disciplines to which Fashion Studies relates, such as Cultural Studies, Everyday Life Studies, Gender Studies, Media Studies, Museum and Curation Studies, Design Studies, History, and Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies. In this sense, the textual and visual key findings will benefit both academics working in these disciplines and students interested to embark on MA, MPhil and PhD higher education degrees.

Professional Communities:
As outcomes from this research gradually become more known it will lead to more non-academic interest in its findings from museum curators, libraries and media outlets.

Fashion Industry:
Fashion businesses, which are seeking to extend their design and style references to appeal to East Central European markets, could also become interested in the key findings of this research, and implement them in their current or future expansion to new markets.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail,Other

 
Description Societal Impacts: Blog: Delivered to five hundred email addresses, including academic peers, museum curators, journalists, students, and the wider public, the Fellowship-related blog 'Translating Fashion: Eastern Europe, Western Europe, 1910-2010' facilitated the dissemination of original archival research in the respective countries, as well as the novel analysis of these research findings. The blog has attracted many comments, and made the ongoing research widely available, due both to a popular style of writing and its online format. Additionally, due to its open access online presence, the societal impact of the blog has widely spread beyond its addressee list. Public Lectures: The Fellowship research trips have been accompanied by an intensive programme of dissemination through academic conferences, symposia and lectures, but also facilitated a series of public talks, taking place in Vienna (Museum for the Applied Arts, MAK); St Petersburg (Aurora Fashion Week, Bukvoed Book Club); St Petersburg (The State Museum of the History of St Petersburg); Moscow (the Moscow House of Photography; Warsaw (The Association of Art Historians; London (Hungarian Cultural Institute). On those occasions the cross-cultural and international focus of the research highlighted many previously unknown textual and pictorial materials from various archival sources, thus reversing the narrative which has historically privileged western fashion. Feeding into the current interest in the phenomenon of fashion, those public talks also invited audiences to consider their local and national fashion histories and consequently develop critical thinking on fashion in contrast to its indiscriminating presentation in the current printed and social media. Public Panels: The Award research findings were also disseminated at two widely advertised and well-visited, and viewed, public panels: 'Fashion and Post-socialism, at the International Fashion Showcase, London, organized by the British Council in 2014, and ShowStudio Live Panel Discussion in 2014 (still alive at the ShowStudio website). These two Panels critically addressed the changing dynamics between East Central European, Russian and Western fashion, caused by the globalisation of commerce and information. Economic Impacts: Fashion Retail: Economic impacts might happen, as the outputs arising from this research become more available and consequently recognized through various publications. Opportunities for knowledge transfer to UK textile design and fashion companies interested in entering Russian and East Central European markets could occur, as, in order to respond to these markets creative workers need to familiarize themselves with their respective vernacular cultures. Further contacts with the British Fashion Council could ensure that the Award findings are known to interested fashion companies in order to provide them with an insight on historical and contemporary fashion cultures in the countries covered by this research. Professional Communities: As this research provides previously unavailable analysis and examples of fashion history, museum curators and exhibition organisers could also become interested to assimilate its results. It could increase the critical understanding of museums professionals and inform their range of subjects for future exhibitions.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description Drive Towards Modernity: Fashionable Woman in Eastern Europe in the Interwar Period, public lecture, The State Museum of the History of St Petersburg, Russia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The State Museum of the History of St Petersburg invited Bartlett during her research trip in St Petersburg to give a lecture on fashionable woman in Eastern Europe in the interwar period. While this Museum hosted the event, they invited the museum curators from the various museums in St Petersburg to attend the talk.
Like some other talks and lectures, this presentation related to the research that Bartlett conducted at that time, so the feedback she received was very important in shaping her insights.
Around thirty museum curators attended the talk, and many of them took part in discussion afterwards.
This talk was well received and led to Bartlett's invitation to give a lecture on the same topic at the European University at St Petersburg.


This talk received such a great reception, that Bartlett was consequently invited to give a lecture on the same topic at the European University at St Petersburg.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Modernism Nationalized: Art Deco Fashions in East Europe, public lecture at the Museum for the Applied Arts (MAK), Vienna, Austria 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This invited public lecture took place within the MAK regular programme of public talks in the lunch hour. Focusing on the themes of nationalism versus cosmopolitanism and the elitist versus the popular, Bartlett's presentation addressed the uses of ethnic and geometrical styles in the East Central European interwar fashions within the social, cultural and artistic contexts in the five countries in the region: Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Croatia.
The talk was attended by around thirty people, consisting of mainly general public, as well as some museum curators.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Panel Fashion and Post-socialism, at the International Fashion Showcase, organized by the British Council, London, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Bartlett was asked by the British Council to chair the Panel on 'Fashion and Post-socialism', at the International Fashion Showcase, organized in London in 2014.
Widely advertised at the British Council website, within the International Fashion Showcase programme, the Panel sold out well in advance, and was attended by around 140 people, the maximum the space could accommodate. The audience included the international participants of Fashion Showcase, as well as the general London public interested in fashion beyond its well-known Western geographical parameters.
The Panellists included fashion practitioners from post-socialist countries, such as the young Estonian fashion designer and artist Marit Ilison, and the representatives from the national Fashion Councils, such as Zuzana Bobikova (Slovak Fashion Council) and Inga Vyshnevska (Head of PR, Ukrainian Fashion Week), as well as educators such as Pavel Ivancic (Professor of Fashion Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague), and experts on national fashions, such as Zuzana Sidlikova, fashion historian and author of the book on interwar Slovak fashion. A lively and informative discussion among the Panellists was followed by an engaging Q&A session.
The role of Chair for this Panel confirmed Bartlett's raising status as expert in the field of post-socialist fashion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Public lecture Art Deco Fashions in Central Europe and Hungary, Magyar Mind Open Lecture Series, Hungarian Cultural Institute, London, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Hungarian Cultural Institute in London offered Bartlett an opportunity to present her ongoing research on Art Deco Fashions in Central Europe and Hungary within the Institute's programme of the Magyar Mind Open Lecture Series in 2013.

Focusing on the themes of nationalism versus cosmopolitanism and the elitist versus the popular, Bartlett's presentation investigated the uses of ethnic and geometrical styles in the East European interwar fashions within the social, cultural and artistic contexts in the five countries in the region: Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Croatia.

Suggested by Bartlett, the other speaker at this public lecture was her colleague, a well-known Hungarian art-historian and museologist, Dr Katalin Földi-Dózsa, who concentrated on Budapest as a fashion capital between the world wars.

As shown by the lively discussion following the talk, the audience, consisting mainly of Hungarian ex-pats, was very much interested in that aspect of their national history, as well as in the relevant comparisons with other countries in the regions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Russia We Love You! Western Fashion Designers and Russian Ethnic Motifs', public lecture, Aurora Fashion Week, Bukvoed Book Club, St Petersburg, Russia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This invited public lecture took place during Bartlett's research trip in St Petersburg in October 2012, and was listed at the official programme of the Aurora Fashion Week, thus gaining a lot of publicity.
The Aurora Fashion Week team organized it within a series of the highly popular talks in the leading bookshop in St Petersburg, Bukvoed Book Club.
Providing a historical overview through textual and visual representations, Bartlett's talk focused on a recent dynamic between East European and western fashion which has resulted in new invented traditions.
Well-publicized due to its connection with the Aurora Fashion Week, while, at the same time, feeding into the current interest in the phenomenon of fashion, this public lecture was attended by up to sixty people, the maximum that the space could accommodate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Russia, We Love You! Western Fashion Designers and Russian Ethnic Heritage, public lecture at the Moscow House of Photography, Russia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Bartlett's talk investigated the processes of translation and auto-translation of Russian sartorial heritage through the iconography of leading Western brands, Russian and western fashion magazines, and budding Russian designers, covering the styles of the tsarist, socialist and post-socialist periods.
The talk was attended by up to 150 people, and offered a novel critical assessment of contemporary fashion which led to a lively discussion afterwards.
Following this talk, Bartlett was invited to present the same lecture in St Petersburg (Bukvoed Book Club within the programme of Aurora fashion Week).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description ShowStudio Live Panel Discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Bartlett was one of three panellists at the Live Round table on the Russian designer Ulyana Sergeenko's 2014 haute couture Paris fashion show. Working with the latest technology SHOWstudio broadcasts live from catwalk shows and fashion shoots, allowing an international audience instant and unparalleled access to the previously closed world of high fashion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Socialist Dandies International: East Europe, 1946-1959, The Association of Art Historians, Warsaw, Poland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Association of Art Historians invited Bartlett to give a talk on the phenomenon of Socialist Dandies in East Europe in the immediate post-war period.
Bartlett's talk mapped the looks and life-style choices of small groups of young, like-minded people who emerged in the post-war Soviet Union and East Europe in the background of huge political, social and cultural changes. With their androgynous bodies wrapped in drape jackets and narrow trousers, and their love of jazz and swing, these young men stood in a sharp contrast to the official ideology that promoted socialism as a new, pure and highly rationalized project.
The presentation was followed by an engaging discussion in which many of thirty or so participants took an active role.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Translating Fashion: Eastern Europe, Western Europe, 1910-2010 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The blog Translating Fashion: Eastern Europe, Western Europe, 1910-2010 accompanied the research project as it took place, throughout 2012-2014.
The content was emailed to an international list of 500 recipients, including academic peers, museum curators, journalists, students, and the wider public. It has also widely reached the general public due to its open access online presence.
A number of the blog entries related to Bartlett's new research concerning interwar fashions and the arts and mass culture phenomena during that period (the Soviet 1920s avant-garde film actress Aleksandra Khokhlova; the Czech poet Jaroslav Seifert's editorship of the late 1920s Communist journal Reflektor; 'Struck by Hollywood', covering the relationship between film and fashion). The topical theme of Bartlett's research dedicated to the relationship between the ethnic, the national and the cosmopolitan has been covered in the following blog entries: 'Geometrical versus Ethnic in Central European Art Deco Fashions', 'Russia, We Love You: Western Fashion Designers and Russian Ethnic Motifs' and 'Is There Time and Place for National Aesthetics in Fashion?: the Case of Russian Fashion Designers'. Some blog entries presented talks with Russian contemporary fashion designers - Alena Akhmadullina, Tatyana Parfionova and Denis Simachev - whom Bartlett interviewed for the purpose of her AHRC-funded research. Other blog entries showed Bartlett's broadened research on the topic of socialist fashion enabled by this Fellowship: 'Afterlives of Constructivism', 'Socialist Dandies International' and 'An Unlikely Comrade: Coco Chanel and Socialist Fashion'.
News and progress reports related to Bartlett's research were posted, including both textual and visual materials.
The blog has attracted many comments, and made Bartlett's ongoing research on Translating Fashion: Eastern Europe, Western Europe 1910-2010 widely available, due both to a popular style of writing and its online format.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2014