Portraying fashion as a personal weapon against an oppressive regime, the documentary is about those who during communism times in Poland rebelled against an army of uniform people.
From the hard-headed Stalinist era, when colorful socks were reprimanded by the militia, through a fascination with Parisian fashion in the '60s, the flower children of the '70s up through the martial law period and the punk-rock '80s, Political Dress, offers a look at Poland’s style evolution. The film was directed by Judyta Fibiger as part of the Guide to the Poles series. produced by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
'If fashion is about wearing something that no one else has', Andrzej Wajda says in the movie, 'then being fashionable in Poland during communist with stores offering the same shabby trousers and shirts, would not have been difficult'. What was available was lacking in style, concept, and shape. The 'labourer look' was the one imposed by the regime because it served as a example to follow in life and at work.
Against this backdrop of greyness, a certain 'underground' style flourished. Young people craved self-expression, they wanted to dress like other young people in New York, London, Paris. Which is why scoring and sewing clothing was an extreme sport practiced by thousands of young people. From stiffed egg whites as hair gel, 18th century lace bedsheets for dresses, to second hand clothes sent in packages from the US bought at markets in Warsaw's Praga district.
To be elegant and fashionable was a form of personal expression. As fashion became an expression of independent ideologies, differently dressed people were assumed to be hooligans. "The Party paid close attention to how people looked. Fashionable people were oppressed in socialist Poland, by the authorities, by the whole communist establishment at all levels, from the People's Militia to the rest of the society. Quite frankly society could not stand fashion", fashion designer Barbara Hoff points out.
Political Dress shares the experiences of those who were singled out as ideological 'saboteurs' by the socialist authorities. The documentary presents the stories and opinions of stylish personalities of the day, including photographer Tadeusz Rolke, designer Barbara Hoff, the writer Janusz Głowacki, 'Biba' fashion founder Barbara Hulanicki, musician Tomek Lipiński and contemporary painter Wilhelm Sasnal.
Barbara Hulanicki - The Polish-born designer founded the extremely successful Biba brand in London. The label began as a mail-order design business in the early '60s that offered young women stylish clothing at an accessible price. Following a big fashion editorial in a popular daily newspaper, the brand took off and Hulanicki, with the support of her husband Stephen Fitz-Simon opened up a shop in Kensington in 1964, offering its iconic pieces to retail customers. The brand continued to be popular until 1975, when Hulanicki left the company. In 2009 the brand was relaunched by the House of Fraser, with prices much higher than the Biba tradition. Today Hulanicki creates collections for popular brands Topshop and Asda. She also runs a successful interior design business.
Barbara Hoff - Hoff was the first Polish entrepreneur to establish a brand in Poland under the designer's own name. In a time of shortages, she offered women a variety of stylish options in the 1980s in Warsaw's only department store. Her collections were a hit, providing a splash of designer glamour amid the drab of what was generally offered in shops. Hoff began her career as a fashion editor, reporting on world trends for the highbrow Przekrój weekly. She is credited for exposing women stuck behind the Iron Curtain with a glimpse at the cosmopolitan world of New York and Parisian glamour - often earning a rebuke from the socialist authorities.
Ania Kuczyńska - As one of the most well-known names in contemporary Polish fashion, Kuczyńska creates simple pieces in quality fabrics and a perchance dash of vibrant colour amid the blacks, whites and greys. Her clothes are appreciated by both the celebrity ranks, as well as everyday women. She has a flagship boutique on Warsaw's fashion strip, ul. Mokotowska, selling her wares in a stylish, minimalist setting. She's been featured in all major fashion magazines in Poland, along with several articles and editorials in global titles like Vogue, Elle and Harper's Bazaar.
Tadeusz Rolke - Photographer known for his pictures of wartime Warsaw and inspired images of cultural life in post-war Poland and Germany. Sentenced to 7 years for "participation to an illegal organisation and for keeping illegal materials from the embassy", Rolke was released prematurely thanks to an amnesty. Hired as a staff photographer at Stolica in 1956, he was responsible for documenting, among other things, the historic rally of Gomułka. He began shooting fashion spreads for Przekrój, where he joined fellow photographers Marek Holzman and Irena Jarosińska, as well as Eustachy Kossakowski, a close friend. He brought intriguing perspectives to every image he captured, transforming the everyday into something entirely new.
Wilhelm Sasnal - Painter, illustrator and comic strip artist of the young generation. He is a co-founder of the now non-existent artistic group Ładnie. Considered by many critics a leading painter of his generation, Wilhelm Sasnal claims that the choice of what he paints is most important for him, and he chooses themes to which he has an emotional relationship. His artistic choices are consequences of attentive observation of his nearest surroundings. The essential issues that continue to interest Sasnal are the limits and possibilities of representation and the examining of the process of seeing and perceiving.
For more information on the peronalities featured in Political Dress see: http://www.politicaldress.pl/heroes
Sources: culture.pl Presidency website
Editor: Marta Jazowska