Tradition and Fashion: Soviet Union Folk Costumes
The exhibition in the Russian museum for Ethnography aims to present one of the most significant and striking demonstrations of the cultural identity of the Soviet peoples – folk costumes.
What is Soviet people folk costume? Who and when created costumes which became visible symbols of ethno and cultural diversity of USSR? What particular costume features in the result of stylized and generalization of the ethnographical authentic prototype became an indicator of ethnicity? Our new exhibition will answer these questions and display various stage outfits, USSR haut couture dresses, manufactures, dress-making studious. Many objects will be shown to public for the first time.
Unlike ethnographical costume folk garment is always used as outwardly directed cultural symbol of certain peoples, as outward reflection of its national identity. The fact that the category “folk costume” excited is an evidence of formation, in post-war decade, of national culture discourse as important and valuable as well as essential for creating common for USSR people Soviet culture.
At the exhibition visitor will be able to see that the result of an interpretation of ethnographic “fashion” made by fashion designers, fashion illustrators, managers of the folklore ensembles, and national intelligentsia appeared an easy recognizable symbol of certain culture.
Stage outfit, wedding costume designed by fashion illustrators, catwalk costumes, or raiment for official events, all these types exist in various functional releases. Such characteristics as pattern, cut, silhouette, and material and color range of folk costume always reflect the established ethnical stereotypes directed to outward observer.
Soviet history of folk costume evolution was dramatic and had various ways of development ethnic, cultural, and local variants. Initially, in late 1920s – 1930s in the context of new paradigms almost every national tradition was regarded as poor cultural level. Moreover, some elements of ethnographical garment which could be an ethnic and cultural symbols, acquired significant negative connotations in official narrative. Thus, Russian bast shoe, Uzbek paranja, Mordovian pulai, Azerbaijanian yashmak, became symbols of backwardness and reactionism.
However, in late 1930s under the influence of “art history turn” in perception of traditional culture implying recognition almost exclusive aesthetic value of ethnographic objects attitude to folk costume started to change. Form target of criticism and negation some of folk garments samples “turn into” a source of aesthetic experience. Reevaluation of the folk traditions took place due to changing of general ideological background of ethnic cultural narratives during that time. From this period those traditions became a powerful resource to support high level of patriotism among Russian people through awaking interest to national culture and pride for the country history. Moreover, rehabilitation of “tradition” became possible because of attempts to make it an integral part of national identity.
Therefore, step by step ethnographic costume became a pivotal part of the ethnical identity and turned into a “showcase” of nation ethnic culture. Being too complicated (variable, multiple, and laborious) for representation, folk costume demanded simplification of its structure and cut, changing of materials and suppressing of local differences. This modernization came under the influence of cultural and national policy and accordingly contemporary perception of utility, hygiene, comfort and aesthetic. In the result, appeared varieties of folk garments designed to demonstrate ethnic diversity of Soviet culture. In the late Soviet times industry that produced folk costumes reached its zenith. It was receptive to ideological demands to show flourishing socialistic culture, as well as fashion trends of that time. Numerous fashion houses and dress-making establishments created fashion collections and accessories with folk motifs, which met the stereotype (even now) ideas of an image of folk costume.