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Exhibition Covers the Phenomenon of Clothing and Fashion in Zagreb from 1945 to 1960
Jovanka Broz i Marija Soljan Bakaric na reviji Tilde Stepinski 1959. u Zagrebu.

BELGRADE.- This period, viewed from the perspective of clothing culture and development of fashion discourse, is especially interesting in this area, because it is a meeting point of the effects caused by an imposed ideological matrix, characteristic of Yugoslav socialism, contained in the stereotype of the “comrade” with preserved memory of the “lady” stereotype. The fashion discourse of that time was marked by the ambivalence of the non-fashionable comrade, put forward by the ideological propaganda, and the lady’s desire to be fashionable. This clash gradually established a specific view of clothing and fashion, so that we could say that Zagreb is an example of swift assent to the challenges of fashion, despite the ideological rigidity of the politically tailored reality. We can follow the development of fashion and clothing in concordance with the development of social reality, which is determined by the following, highly important historical facts:

The first post-war period meant ideological imposition of manifest socialist realism, which determined the way of living in Croatia until 1948, when Tito rejected the political dictate by the Soviet Union (Stanko Lasić considered this time a period of “imposing ideology on the totality of life”).

The next period is the span from 1948 to 1952 (it is the time when the EXAT 51 group was formed, termed by Lasić as “transitory”).

The period from 1952 onwards is characterised by a “more open and placeble atmosphere” (Ješa Denegri). The EXAT 51 period (1951-56) marked “a short but eventful, actually a key period for making a variety of artistic expressions in the post-war Croatia and Yugoslavia publicly accessible” (Ješa Denegri).

Although this periodisation must not necessarily be useful for depicting the real and / or imaginary life connected with fashion clothing, it certainly makes the understanding of bringing aesthetics into life easier. However, this constantly present aim was achieved only slowly and modestly.

As the post-war Europe had to wait for Dior’s “New Look” until 1947, we can perceive fashion events in this area in the same way. It is at that time and in this area, where two ideologies (the eastern and the western) met, that the middle-class (pre-war) memory clashed with the imposition of the “new man” ideology in a very characteristic way.

By observing the clothing discourse and (first) fashion signals through picture documents (mainly photographs), we can acquire a notion of certain typifications of fashionable look, i.e. ideas about emergence of new stereotypes that marked the period.

The most interesting stereotype is the appearance of the “comrade”. Already in 1945, as a result of political programming, she has a defined look (this look, as we can see, developed in concordance with its political context).

This “ideological” look is juxtaposed to the idea of “the lady with a memory”, who kept her personal tailor and unceasing liking for fashionable look from the pre-war period.
Softening of political dictate enabled the realisation of the desire for fashion, especially fashion from the West (very interesting is the swift acceptance of Dior’s New Look from 1947).

Under that (western) influence, the “comrade” also felt a desire for fashion as a particular form of making life aesthetic, which created some kind of “hybrid” stereotype of “lady-comrade”. The existence and a rising number of important fashion parlours speak about the increasing number of new fashion consumers, “recruited” among the political elite. The majority of customers in those parlours were ideologically impeccable “comrade” from the political elite.

The influence of the EXAT 51, education of artists, fashion journals (Naša moda, Svijet), film, photography, fashion shows, fashion parlours, development of textile and clothing industry and a faster information flow resulted in a special relationship to the fashion dictate of the haute couture. It became evident in the production of fashion tailored by measure; it was frequently a cheaper variety of western fashion: apart from its modesty, this fashion is markedly creative, luxurious and refined. Those creations were usually conceived by owners of fashion parlours, whose creativity was comparable to the one in haute couture parlours of Paris. The history of fashion in Zagreb of that period recorded the outstanding authorial signatures of Žuži Jelinek, Tilda Stepinski, Mila Granitz, Terka Tončić and Rosi Šavora. They were only a part of a whole line of designers and makers of fashion clothing, shoes and accessories.

Thanks to them, we can term this period a time of fashion parlours, which generated fashion with all style characteristics of the 50-ies, corresponding to the haute couture of the big European fashion centres.

This important contribution to clothing culture and the development of the fashion system can be observed in rich fashion documentation like photographs, quotations from diverse documents, public and private collections of photographs, amateur photographs, journals, newspapers, brochures, manuals and books. Visually and in words they convey to us the new female image, a notion of her clothing and fashion of the period.

This exhibition at Museum of Yugoslav History displays major documents from the shrine of fashion history as testimonies of that time’s everyday life.

The meeting of different sources of the same era opens the possibility of a special reading of history, in which fashion is recognized as a powerful and autonomous starter of social changes: we could say that the reach of fashion influence is measurable in aspects in which the changes manifest themselves. Only structured fashion, even when it is ignored and quiet, has subversive power able to erode even the most rigid political dictate.

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