When the fashion industry declares that lime green is the new black, or instructs us to “think pink!”, it is not the result of a backroom deal forged by a secretive cabal of fashion journalists, designers, manufacturers, and the editor of Vogue. It is the latest development of a color revolution that has been unfolding for more than a century.
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface in July of 1969, they wore spacesuits made by Playtex: twenty-one layers of fabric, each with a distinct yet interrelated function, custom-sewn for them by seamstresses whose usual work was fashioning bras and girdles. This book is the story of those spacesuits. It is a story of the triumph over the military-industrial complex by the International Latex Corporation, best known by its consumer brand of "Playtex"—a victory of elegant softness over engineered hardness, of adaptation over cybernetics.
The idea of fashion under socialism conjures up images of babushka headscarves and black market blue jeans. And yet, as Djurdja Bartlett shows in this groundbreaking book, the socialist East had an intimate relationship with fashion. Official antagonism—which cast fashion as frivolous and antirevolutionary—eventually gave way to grudging acceptance and creeping consumerism.
The late nineteenth-century invention of "fashion" as we understand it today inspired avant-garde artists of the period to create an art form to counter commercial fashion. These artists saw clothing not as a symbol of class distinction but as a force for shaping experience—an opportunity to make things new, to go beyond the traditional boundaries of art.