Архів категорії: cinema

Fashion in costumes of Soviet perestroika cinema

Melnyk M. Fashion in costumes of Soviet perestroika cinema // Nefiltravanae Kino: Proceeding of the film studies conference (Minsk, March 13, 2020). – Minsk: 2020. – P. 28-31.

Abstract. Today, the fashion of the perestroika period is again in trend. Collections and museum exhibitions are dedicated to it. The time distance allows us to look at the culture of perestroika more objectively. In the wake of the search for truth, the costume in the perestroika movie reflected the fashion of the time without censorship and embellishment, so films of that time are an important source of scientific research. This article offers an analysis of the costumes of the most popular and stylistically interesting films, including “Courier”, “ASSA”, “Eagle”,  “Crash – Cop’s Daughter”, “Criminal talent” and “Interdevochka”. As a result of the analysis, the directions in the perestroika fashion are highlighted.

Keywords: perestroika fashion, soviet fashion, soviet cinema, cinema costume, fashion history, 1980s fashion.

The fashion of the Soviet perestroika is again relevant: collections of this style are shown on catwalks, costume exhibitions are held in museums. Perestroika, which officially began in 1985, refuted the official collections of Soviet state model houses, and the cinema of that time reflected not only how people dressed, but also how they perceived clothes, how they created their own fashionable images.

Among the scientific research of the declared topic are works by Jukka Gronow and Sergey Zhuravlev (Fashion Meets Socialism: Fashion Industry in the Soviet Union after the Second World War) [3], Karina Karaeva, dedicated to visual features of sots art in interaction with the visual language of Soviet cinema [1] and Ludmila Yatina, who studied the reflection of the lifestyle of young people іmage in Russian cinema [2]. In 2019 the book “Ruptures and Continuities in Soviet/Russian Cinema: Styles, characters and genres before and after the collapse of the USSR” was published [4].

Perestroika abolished the main function of Soviet cinema: to serve the current ideological order of the state. This led to the loss of landmarks and even the loss of the “hero” but allowed filmmakers to show life without any embellishment. That is why perestroika cinema is stylistically very interesting and shows a truthful fixation of that time fashion.

Cinema, which was created in the harsh conditions of the social consequences of the Soviet Union, did not aim to educate the younger generation but reproduced the surrounding reality of temptations, problems, and difficulties, a crisis of values, lack of orientations and priorities.

At a time when old norms were being destroyed, young people sought to form their own contradictory views. The voice of the younger generation sounded louder, and films about youth problems became harbingers of future changes, emphasizing not just the revolt of generations, but the deep gap between parents and children.

Karen Shakhnazarov’s film “Courier” (1986)

Karen Shakhnazarov’s film “Courier” (1986) became a kind of Manifesto for the youth of that time. The film showed close and understandable characters. From the point of the costume view, this is a kind of mirror of the late USSR. The film begins with a scene of divorce, immediately after which the new wife of the main character’s father appears in a fashionable white suit with wide shoulders and a bright print, dressed over a red shirt – this is the new phase of the characters ‘ life. The main female character of the film is remembered in the fashionable and scarce “Adidas” tracksuit, which was a real marker of “coolness” in the years when not only branded, but just any things of foreign production were an indicator of the special status. Her image as a Professor’s daughter embodies the privilege of the top of old Soviet society. “The lower classes” lived differently: “I have a dream to buy a coat” – says one of the characters at the end of the film, summing up the sad reality of perestroika and voicing the dreams of many teenagers of that time.

In Sergey Solovyov’s film “ASSA” (1987), ethics and aesthetics are even tougher. This film, about the relationship between the girlfriend of a crime boss and a musician she meets by chance, became a symbol of Gorbachev’s perestroika. The characters are dressed in baggy trench coats, voluminous pantsuits, shapeless jackets, and shirts layered one on top of the other. Today, these are already familiar images, but in 1987 this style of a young girl’s clothing was interpreted as a revolt against fashion: against bright colors, mini-skirts, plastic jewelry, high-combed hair, and permanent curls. This is a revolt not only against the old Soviet Union but also against the depraved social system as a whole. The film created an anti-fashion, embodied in things without gender, age, seasons and trends, beyond the bounds of decency and good taste. A kind of anthem of this riot, as well as the entire era of perestroika, was the song of the band “Kino”, which sounds at the end of the film – “Changes are required by our hearts”.

The frontman of “Kino” Viktor Tsoi

The frontman of “Kino” Viktor Tsoi was an idol of young people; his image was imitated, so when, after “ASSA”, Rashid Nugmanov’s “Needle” (1988) appeared on the screens, this picture became a cult one. This is one of the first Soviet films that truly spoke about the young generation of the USSR in its language. Tsoi did not design his character’s style specifically, but only dressed as he did off-screen. The singer’s trademark was total black: a loose leather jacket or bomber jacket, a t-shirt and trousers rolled up from the bottom – all this is a kind of anti-fashion that periodically becomes mainstream.

Anti-fashion, but more provocative images are also shown in the film “Crash – Cop’s Daughter” (1989) by Mikhail Tumanishvili.  Already at the beginning of the film, the father calls his fashionably dressed daughter a garden Scarecrow, demanding to remove her metal accessories. The daughter, like the rest of her company, has no authority and openly despises her elders, who before perestroika lied and hushed up the lawlessness in the USSR. Her enterprising grandfather getting “deficit” through the Union of war veterans. Crash teases him, challenging: “And can you get me some sneakers?”. The image of the Crash included a leather jacket and ripped jeans combined with high-combed hair and makeup in the style of “vamp” were very popular.

“Crash – Cop’s Daughter” (1989) by Mikhail Tumanishvili

Not much rebellious, but revealing were the films about prostitutes – absolutely new to the Soviet screen heroines: “Criminal talent” (1988) and “Interdevochka” (1989).

“Criminal talent” by Sergei Ashkenazi depicts a cheater who, after coming to study in a big city, instead of training at a cloth factory, is engaged in prostitution and theft. A beautiful and fashionably dressed blonde cynically criticizes the injustice of the existing system, in which to buy boots, you need to starve, and “Chanel sprayed, Dior dressed” sounds as absurd as to introduce yourself as Claudia Cardinale.

“Criminal talent” by Sergei Ashkenazi (1988)

Even more revealing of the rotten Soviet system is a parallel fashion story: the sixteen-year-old daughter of an investigator demands money from her father for expensive jeans from “Berezka”, which can only be bought with “connections” and paying double price, and for which an honest person does not have enough salary.

Pyotr Todorovskiy’s “Interdevochka” (1989)

Pyotr Todorovskiy’s “Interdevochka” (Intergirl) is one of the most popular films of the perestroika period and the leader of the Soviet film distribution in 1989. The film has received numerous awards and prizes. The main character of the film together with her “colleagues” demonstrates the latest trends of Western glamour: “broad-shouldered” jackets, decorated by rhinestones, oversized jackets, silk blouses, mini-skirts, leggings, “boiled” jeans, massive gilded jewelry, lace gloves, fishnet tights. Clothing in this cinema not only performs a decorative role but also clearly indicates the social status of the characters. This is emphasized by the parting gift for the mother of the main character: Arctic Fox fur coat, which costs “a lot of money”. Mother, touched and frightened by this luxury, can’t believe it and say: “You are crazy, you are just crazy”.

A different view of fashion is demonstrated by Vasili Pichul’s film “Little Vera” (1988). The style of that time is shown through the prism of “social bottom”: the main character spends most of the screen time in a simple t-shirt and a black mini-skirt but highlighted combed hair, large plastic earrings and bracelets made the image iconic. The “Little Vera” was perceived abroad as a symbol of perestroika and glasnost.

Vasili Pichul’s film “Little Vera” (1988)

The analysis of the costumes in most popular and style-revealing films of the perestroika period shows that at the peak of the outdated Soviet art modeling, which was accompanied by a “gray” commercial assortment, a total deficit and speculation, there were different directions of fashion alternatives: rebellious fashion of subcultures, little groups or individuals, compromise “poor” adaptation of fashion, corresponding to the economic crisis, and glamorous “Western fashion”, desired by the majority, but available to the elite only. All three directions were positively perceived by young people and sharply condemned by those who lived in the system of outdated Soviet values. Since perestroika fashion entered global trends in the early 2020s, Soviet films of that time can serve as a source not only of fashion history studying but also as a source of inspiration for modern and future fashion designers.


  1. Караева К. З. Изобразительные особенности соц-арта во взаимодействии с визуальным языком отечественного кинематографа 1970-2000-х годов: диссертация кандидата искусствоведения: 17.00.03 / Караева Карина Зауровна; [Место защиты: Всерос. гос. ин-т кинематографии им. С.А. Герасимова]. – Москва, 2017. – 160 с.
  2. Ятина Л. И., Калинина Т. С. Изображение стиля жизни молодёжи в российском кинематографе: трансформация практик в обществе потребления // Журнал социологии и социальной антропологи, 2011, Т.XIV, № 5. – С. 168–181.
  3. Gronow J., Zhuravlev S. Fashion Meets Socialism: Fashion Industry in the Soviet Union after the Second World War / Jukka Gronow and Sergey Zhuravlev. – Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2015. – 303 pp.
  4. Ruptures and Continuities in Soviet/Russian Cinema: Styles, characters and genres before and after the collapse of the USSR (Routledge Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series) 1st Edition / by Birgit Beumers (Editor), Eugenie Zvonkine (Editor). – London: Routledge, 2019 – 226 pp.

Text © Myroslav Melnyk, 2020. This is thesis for Nefiltravanae Kino: Proceeding of the film studies conference (Minsk, March 13, 2020).


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Costumes in Fellini’s Satyricon


The most remarkable aspects of the Fellini’s film “Satyrycon” are the costumes by renowned designer Danilo Donati. These glorious constructions are astonishing in their intricate, picturesque design. 

Capucine in Satyricon Fellini, 1969

Fellini had asked fashion models to act in his films. In particular, in Satyricon (Fellini – Satyricon) (1969), Donyale Luna and Capucine
play the parts of Oenothea and Tryhaena, the wife of Trimalchio. Capucine, besides starring in some films in France, was a well-known model who worked for Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain. The dress worn by Capucine in Satyricon, an example of how costume and fashion are interrelated and now held in the archives of the sartoria Farani in Rome, is a masterpiece in its nuances of pale blue and its hundreds of pleats à la Fortuny (the Delphos gown) .

Delfos by Mariano Fortuni

In the scenes in which Capucine wears this costume, along with the
appropriate visual effects and make-up, the film takes the form of a very
sophisticated fashion photo shoot. The body of the model performs the
spectacle of the timeless quality of the dress. Costume here becomes
fashion, while at the same time transcending it. In this historical adaptation, the geniality of costume designer Danilo Donati comes to the fore.

Satyricon was the first collaboration between Fellini and Donati, who went on to work with him on several films such as I Clowns, Roma, Amarcord, Casanova, Ginger and Fred, Intervista (Tosi Pamphili 2014: 16). As a costume designer and art director, Donati was eclectic, but he could never be called a philologist of costume adaptation. Rather, his aim was to reinvent historical dress, reframe history and costume through the contemporary eyes and with a poetry that was relevant for the character and the story in question. Gianfranco Angelucci commenting on Donati’s work states that he was interested more in the interior landscape of an epoch than its reconstruction (2014: 54). Donati even affirmed that ‘Il vero è l’amico degli amanti della filologia che come si sa è la morte della creatività’: truth is friend with lovers of historical accuracy, which, as we know, is the death of creativity (Angelucci 2014: 66).

Truth is friend with lovers of historical accuracy, which, as we know, is the death of creativity.

But how does this act of reframing history through dress and costume
work? [Eugenia Paulicelli Reframing history: Federico Fellini’s Rome, fashion and costume // Film, Fashion & Consumption 2019, Volume 8, Number 1].



Style Icon Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

Cinema and fashion are closely related types of artistic creativity. On the one hand, fashion largely affects the creation of images of movie characters and even in historical tapes, signs of the time of filming appear from the type of actors, their posture and plasticity, their costumes and characters. On the other hand, cinema, as the most popular, accessible art, affects the tastes of wider audience. Thus there is a circulation of images from real life on the screens and vice versa.

Marlene Dietrich

The image of the actress became one of the archetypal in the history of fashion of the twentieth century. It combined the elegance of the Belle époque and the depravity of the 1920s, glamorous art Deco and severity during the Second world war, new look 1950’s and unisex of the 1970’s. All this, after the star, imitate millions of her fans, guiding the imagination of designers and defining both high and mass fashion.

Marlene Dietrich

In Hollywood, the cult of stars was strongly supported by film studios, which were systems of “production” of condensed, crystallized models for mass worship and imitation. Therefore, Marlene was created as a kind of artistic artifact. Before meeting with the Director that “opened” Dietrich – Joseph von Sternberg – Marlene was lively and cheerful chubby brown-haired girl. But Sternberg, sensing the trend of the time, made her lose weight and bleach her hair and “sculpted” her image until man-made replaced natural beauty. As a result, the slender strong beauty with hollow cheeks, half-lowered eyelids and clearly defined lips became an iconic image not only for the 1930s, but also set the fashion trend for the following decades and timeless stylistic direction, relevant at the beginning of the XXI century.

Marlene Dietrich

Dietrich often brought her images to the level of a cartoon, created a theatrical carnival effect. If in the “high society” elegance is synonymous with hidden luxury, the excess of the actress was designed to impress the masses. And the threat to seem vulgar was overcome by refinement of taste, authenticity of luxury and extraordinary meticulousness to the smallest details: ancient lace, selected furs, catchy jewelry –everything was real. For Marlene, it was a kemp – the way of ironic aesthetic elevation over mass taste.

Marlene Dietrich

From Marlene, as the Hollywood star, public expected not only external attractiveness and provocative behavior, she also belonged to “swim in luxury”. The indispensable attributes of stardom were richly furnished mansions, limousines with personal drivers, cruises and travel, unreasonably huge expenses-all this was expressed by the concept of “glamour”.

Marlene Dietrich

Glamour became an escape from the complexities of interwar life. Turning stars into a kind of concentrate of glamour, the cinema system attracted to the screens all, who dreamed of a beautiful life. Glamour Girl ratings were made by the press and advertising departments of the largest film studios. The glamourising of film stars was conducted on well understandable rules: exaggerated femininity and ostentatious luxury materialized shades and colors, which create effect shines on (brilliant bronze, dark gold, shining silver and platinum), expensive tissue (satin, chiffon, velvet), fur, lace, ubiquitous sequins and rhinestones, form-fitting silhouettes, tightened in corset waist, high gloves off and heels, jewelry. Glamorous images began to be displaced from the cinema by realistic looks only in the 1950s and 1960s, when the stars were freed from the framework of a well-defined image and began to play diverse roles and often change their image in real life. Marlene Dietrich was one of the few who remained true to the style of refined flashy luxury. The roles she played allowed her, in the constant musical numbers of her heroines, carried the actress beyond the limits of the plot space and time, demanded from her the usual entertainment, not believability.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich, from the very beginning of its popularity, has become a “style icon” – a person who sets the tone in fashion. She has always been the center of attention of photographers and journalists, who did not leave unnoticed any of her outfit, focusing the attention of supporters on every change in appearance and in every detail of the costume of the actress. So, being replicated on huge audiences, its individual consumption acquired socially significant character and turned into the phenomenon of culture. Her cars, her clothes, her cosmetics, her jewelry, her watches, even her food and drink rose to status, determining her supporters’ preferences. 

Marlene Dietrich

In 1987, Dietrich’s talent was evaluated by The Fashion Foundation of America award for her lifetime contribution to fashion. After the death of the star in 1992, her colossal wardrobe moved to the Museum of Film and Television in Berlin and the Galliera, the Fashion Museum of Paris. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema.

Marlene Dietrich

This is the translation of my article: Образ Марлен Дітріх в контексті тенденцій моди // Культура і сучасність: Альманах Державної академії керівних кадрів культури і мистецтв, 2010, №1, С. 174 – 178.

Sincerely yours, Myroslav Melnyk 🙂

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Fashion & Cinema

Some quotes from washingtonpost.com

Designers have become part of the myth-making machine — as important as the lighting director, the makeup artist and the hairstylist. And almost as invisible.

…During award show season, the clothes flow by like bonbons on a conveyor belt. We consume the delights so quickly that we can’t fully appreciate them…

…Today, designers, whether they believe it or not, no longer need the wattage of celebrities to bring them buzz, make them legit or otherwise bless them with cultural relevance. They have social media. Designers can star in their own television shows. They can live-stream their runway productions. Celebrities are no longer a boon; they are a crutch…



Sincerely yours,

Modoslav – Myroslav Melnyk )