In 1989, couturiers and authors who wrote about clothing did not yet imagine the problems or opportunities that the coming capitalism promised. The most sore point was the lack of materials and the inaccessibility of new technologies. Nobody knew that in a few years all fashion houses would be closed, the textile and clothing industry would rise, and many would lose their jobs. In 1989, Polish magazines wrote mainly about the crisis and heroic attempts to deal with its consequences. They also wrote about trends that arose in the west. What else? This can be found in articles published shortly before or immediately after June 4, 1989.
“New Village” – the defender of the weak
Founded in 1930, the New Village magazine was associated with the peasant movement. Four years later, the “left” monthly was closed and resumed only in the 50s, but they began to issue more often – once every two weeks. It wrote not only about the problems of the village, but also about the lifestyle, fashion and culture. The “New Village” was fashionable, modern and social – it affected social problems, and the characters of the texts often became people expelled from society.
Fashion in the magazine was given a special role. The section devoted to current trends was placed on the fourth page of the cover – in today’s conditions of a market economy, the most expensive and most prestigious advertising is published here. “In the new season, saturated colors are relevant. Some outfits, both for travel and leisure, and for publication, are shocking with the color composition, ”the journalist said in a June 11, 1989 issue, that is, released immediately after the first partially free elections. The heading told about the news behind the Iron Curtain. The journalist, who had access to Western European magazines, retold their contents to those readers for whom such fashion magazines were not available. Photos were reprinted from magazines such as Brigitte, Burda, Elle, Gazie, and Marie France. So the “New Village” became a window to the west.
However, the most interesting articles in the New Village are those in which fashion and clothing appear in the context of local economic and social topics. In the issue of May 21, a conversation was published with Cheslava Gurecka, director of the Postal Trade House in Lodz. In an interview entitled “Privileges – the most defenseless”, we read: When there is no product specified in the order, we resort to the so-called substitution. We try to make it popular products, say, towels or tights. For example, now I have received a thousand shetland sweaters at a low price, 29 thousand zlotys (price in the “old” zlotys. On July 7, 1994, the Sejm decided to denominate at the rate of 10,000: 1 – approx. Per.). They just go to the “substitution.”
The fact that a thousand identical sweaters from the same (Shetland) wool were sent to the region indicates a lack of choice. For a client who has access to a free market, fashion is associated with a choice: he can copy or create his own aesthetics, choose a style, express his aspirations and symbolically join a certain group. Then fashion becomes a sign – it can report on belonging to a big city, ideas, rebellion, elegance, artistry, courage, fear … But the clients of the House of Parcel Trade could only report … that they are clients of the House of Parcel Trade who had nothing to do with style. The director of the Lodzinskogo House of Mail-order Trade, being unable to fulfill all the orders, added indignantly: Of course, I dream of times when a client orders, for example, a carpet, a food processor and curtains, and I can complete the entire order. The most defenseless people enjoy privileges: people with disabilities. We have decided so. In addition, regular customers – who are with us in joy and sorrow, and mothers with young children. Especially from small villages.
In an interview recorded by Eva Pasecka, we also read that on the initiative of the “House of Parcel Trade” a collection of clothes for people with disabilities was created. It was designed at the Institute of Industrial Design in Warsaw, to which Polish fashion owes a lot. Cheslava Guretskaya explained: I could not agree that in times of crisis, when so many goods are scarce, you do not need to sew blouses with long backs for women in wheelchairs. I believe this: it is easy to share what we have in abundance, but humanism requires us to also share what we lack. To do good is necessary, first of all, when it is difficult, and not when it is easy.
Fashion in Poland was usually created thanks to the persistence of those who really wanted to develop and popularize it. Guretskaya’s resilience resembles the position of many women designers of that time, who continued to do their job, despite the difficult critical situation in the economy. Neither the market nor the real demands of consumers influenced fashion in Poland. Well-known fashion designers such as Barbara Hoff or Grazhina Hase sought to develop high-quality design, to create original models at the world level for modern shelves.
The interest of the editorial office of the New Village in the situation of people squeezed out to the periphery of the social space may seem surprising today – this is hardly possible in modern lifestyle magazines. For example, texts on the catastrophic state of village education or how women live in poor cities and villages coexisted with articles on the latest fashion trends. The heroine of the issue of May 21, 1989 was Mrs. Jadwiga, a Warsaw woman, “who is not yet forty and who lives by finding (…) in garbage dumps,” wrote Dariusz Szensny, author of the report “Paradise Mrs. Jadwigi”. “My territory is mainly old pre-war houses. As a rule, respectable citizens live in them. Next to such a lot easier to feed, often come across decent clothes. And I like to dress beautifully, even when I’m going to work, ”says Mrs. Jadwiga and spins coquettishly, demonstrating her outfit with a smile. Gray, with a touch of yellowness, a dimensionless finger, black velvet trousers, red boots on the feet with a slightly lagging sole. On the head there is an elegant leather ear-flaps with ties that hang out under the chin. All together, perhaps not the latest fashion, but no one will call Mrs. Jadwig a “tattered woman”.
Mrs. Jadwiga collected bottles, waste paper, clothes. One raised an eleven-year-old Agatha. Once she found a pile of foreign magazines in a garbage dump. She took them to a dressmaker, and in return she sewed a dress for her daughter. At the end of the heroine’s story, a prophetic comment is placed: “Environmentalists are sounding the alarm: in ten, at most twenty-thirty years, our planet will turn into one large garbage dump. For some, this prospect is truly terrifying. But for Mrs. Jadwiga, only then will heaven come on earth. ” The predictions of environmentalists have come true. In 2019, we are on the verge of a climate catastrophe. The oceans are buried in garbage. Clothing is made of plastic, and the textile industry has become one of the largest poisoners on Earth. Today, Mrs. Yavdiga would have been or would have been seventy years old, and she could have been convinced that she was at the forefront of future changes, because one of the most striking modern trends is “digging in the trash”, buying used clothes and wearing old or recycled clothes. The more people catch this trend, the higher the chance that we will avoid death. For example, the slogan of Vivienne Westwood, a 78-year-old iconic fashion designer with a worldwide reputation: “Buy less, choose better.”
In the mirror of the crisis
How deep was the crisis of the 80s, convincingly wrote Andrzej Frishke in the book “1989. The Polish Way to Freedom ”(2009). The lack of goods on the shelves became commonplace, moreover, “in 1985, national income in Poland was lower than in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria.” It was assumed that a number of laws of 1988, prepared by Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakovsky and Minister of Industry Mieczyslaw Wilczek, would change the situation. The so-called “Wilczek law” laid the foundation for the Polish path to capitalism. On December 23, 1988, the Seimas approved “laws on free economic activity, on economic activity with the participation of foreign entities, which laid the foundations for the development of private industry and trade.”
Economic pathologies of the final phase of the NDP were described by Zerkalo, a magazine published since 1956 by the League of Polish Women. Bozhena Stolyarskaya wrote in an article “Quality Problems” (June 1, 1989): We buy shoes that can hardly withstand half a season, look at bread with temper with disgust, run through workshops in search of spare parts for constantly breaking household appliances. Wherever you look, ugliness and cheapness are everywhere. In the same issue there was a large article “Triptych led by fashion”. The text consists of statements by Agnieszka Ritz, chairman of the Savena Textile Fisheries in Wloclawek, recorded by Dobrochnaya Kendzierska. Ritz began with a description of trends: “The range of preferences regarding outerwear is great. “Free-cut things cease to be relevant, tight-fitting styles are increasingly found.” A few kind words were addressed to Warsaw and the Warsaw women: Paris dresses like us. Honestly, Warsaw is very elegant. Exquisitely dressed ladies drive cars there. It is curious that French women wear more and more things from artificial materials. The fact that the polka would not wear it is considered good form. Fashion is created by accessories. I assure you: those that are sold, for example, in Warsaw on Rutkowski Street, fully comply with international standards.
Rutkovsky Street – today Khmelnaya – was famous for its private shops and komissionki where used clothes were sold from abroad. In house number 36, next to the Centrum department stores, was the main store of Polish Fashion. Clothing from such stores was not accessible to everyone, only relatively wealthy residents of big cities had the opportunity to “be in trend” and create fashion, they could hide from cheapness and ugliness.
In the Triptych led by fashion, we also read that Savena products were exported to Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland and the Federal Republic of Germany, and in Poland they could be bought in the Polish Fashion and in the stores of the Gallux Capital Trading Company in Warsaw. Nevertheless, the company from Wloclawek did not escape the problems that resulted from the deep economic crisis. Ritz described in detail the work of the cooperative after the entry into force of the “Wilczek Law”: We are waging an endless struggle. What do we need to produce products at least at a decent level? Firstly, we need good equipment, secondly, professionals, and thirdly, materials, ”she explains. I consider my biggest success the acquisition of a computer-based product preparation system manufactured by the Komitech cooperative in Warsaw. This is the first such decision in the CMEA countries. Worst of all – endless throwing. You never know if your choice is right. You are constantly nervous and think about what to spend dollars received from the so-called foreign exchange deductions.
“Pshekruy” – a trendsetter
An entirely different reality was described by the intellectual “Pshekruy” dated June 4, 1989. Barbara Hoff, the founder of the cult brand “Hoffland” and one of the most valuable fashion designers in the history of Polish culture, wrote about fashion in him. That day she persuaded: Girls! Let’s become real ladies! Let’s get rid of excess jewelry. The first step is to abandon the evening style in the morning, change our shoes to low heels, and begin to dress with restraint. But not boring! It’s summer 89, and neither mini nor wide shorts in the city shock anyone.
In the photo of the model (Urshula Kshizhanovskaya and Gabi Gzhivach) they posed in actual outfits produced by Hoffland, available for sale in the Centrum department store. The designer assured: I cannot create unfashionable things – my hand does not rise. In addition, the company warrants that the wardrobe will be fashionable next year.
In 1989, they still believed that something could be the most fashionable and that there were major trends. Today we know that fashion is split into endless streams and creates various aesthetics.
From 1989 magazines, we learn that ready-to-wear collections were virtually non-existent. The Poles were doomed to see the same clothes from gray-brown fabrics in all stores, unless they managed to catch something in expensive commissaries and shops on Rutkovsky or break through the line in the Tsentrum department store when they threw it on the shelves that anything from Hoffland. An important role was played by the DIY fashion, or “do it yourself”. In the sections on fashion on the pages of the New Village, Mirrors, or Pshekruya readers could peep what they were wearing in the West, and then do it themselves or order it from a dressmaker, shoemaker or furrier. Contrary to popular belief, there were many handicraft workshops – they were not destroyed by the authorities of the NDP. The bloody harvest was collected only by capitalism, which just became the reason that Polish handicraft ceased to exist. He was supplanted by large network enterprises – shops of quick tailoring, cheap, attractive fashionable clothes. The political transformation also led to the collapse of all the NDP fashion houses and almost the entire textile industry. The difficulties described in The Mirror and New Village preceded the final disaster that no one knew about. But the impending environmental catastrophe occurring today was predicted.