Fashion in the Cold War

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FASHION IN THE COLD WAR

By Imani Jones

Analyze how and why the cold war affected both sides’ fashion styles.

The Cold War traumatically affected the lifestyles of the United States, Soviet Union, China and Europe; however, the Cold War played a major role in fashion history. Fashion during the Cold War gave people the opportunity to express themselves through what they wore. Due to Communism in other countries such as China, people were neither able to wear what they wanted nor embrace themselves in the latest fashion trend of that season or even year. In a Communist world, people lived in very basic conditions and cared little about luxuries such as fashion (Fashion Encyclopedia, 2012). Those West of the iron curtain, Americans and Europeans to be specific, did not have to encounter these restrictions as severely as Communists countries did. At the end of the war the fashion industry happened to be one of the biggest industries to benefit from the rise of consumerism.

During the Cold War, clothing was rationed and limited when worn by men and women in the United States. Women wore long, plain skirts paired usually with a white or pink type of top while men wore green or black trousers with a white or green shirt. People grew tired of clothing restrictions that governments had enacted during wartime, and soon returned to wearing luxurious and expressive clothing. Western economies boomed and people had access to a range of consumer goods, including fashionable clothes and shoes. In contrast, people of Communist China, were required to wear simple clothing to show that there were no differences in social class (Fashion Encyclopedia, 2012). However, postwar world fashion attire was only made in Capitalist countries therefore the West was bound to be the center of fashion between 1946 and 1960.

Political and social changes of 1946 through 1960 had an absolute affect on the fashion people wore. From women wearing the billowy New Look dresses of 1947 the designer Christian Dior created to the bold and sharpness of grey flannel suited businessmen of the early 1950’s to the hair slicked back, leather jacket, plain white tee and jeans, dangerously-looking “greasers” of the late 1950’s, the way people dressed reflected their attitudes about the social changing and political climate of the period. As the Cold War brought several changes to the American society and social attitudes of the nation, it changed people’s thoughts. In the 1950’s people, for the most part, were patriotic and believed Communism was the root of all evil. Historically, Americans have always been unwilling to entering war. Once the step to active and official participation is taken, the country rallies to support either the cause or the troops, and where it was usually both. However, after each declaration of war, the United States in most cases enthusiastically supported the mobilization of manpower and industry. The women’s attitude of the political climate was quite powerful as they were considered some type of leader where there were women serving at the highest level of government as Secretary of State. As for the teens of the 1950’s this was a rebellious stage for them where directly their attitudes on the social change and political climate of the Cold War was expressed throughout their everyday appearance as the Greasers.

At the end of the 1950’s postwar fashion had developed its own voice. Fashion in the Cold War determined people’s social status and work field. For example, the fashion looks modeled by George Peck in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit was the perfect example of the new civilian uniform as it represented the American search for purpose in a world dominated by business especially for those who had been in war. Seen in Images 1 and 2 in the index, businessmen were proud to have a uniform. The grey flannel suit was daily work attire as it symbolized being a provider and a man of business in...
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