During the Soviet times fashion was first and foremost, an instrument of propaganda of hard work attitudes and education of good taste. Therefore the way people were dressed was very strictly regulated – just like anything else, fashion had to be “planned” and “approved”.
Officially the most popular designs were the classic ones. Not only were they set out to promote the good taste of the clean cut and reserved elegance, it was also a very convenient way of production: once designed and approved, the classic dresses and suits were not as responsive to changes in the trends and hence inexpensive to maintain. The often boring-looking pieces of clothing were labelled as never going out of fashion and promoted as “eternally youthful”.
Such clothes were meant to also have a disciplinary influence over the regular folk, as they would set the “right” attitudes and lines of behaviour. That, in 1960s, had developed into the state regulations over the school uniform, which was standartised across the country.
But back to the adults now. Generally, due to the lack of new designs and the limited stocks of the department stores, most Soviet people had more than a humble wardrobe, compared to their Western counterparts. Usually it consisted of two parts: the winter one (had to be solid, warm and inextricably expensive):
… and the summer wardrobe. Presumably these ones are dressed up for the occasion.
Oh, DIY was very popular in the USSR. Literally everybody would dream of owning a sewing machine and then the patterns of standardised garments would be shared among many and treasured for generations. The apt ones would make everything, from aprons (pictured) to bras and swimsuits. Note: this is not a modern-day pattern collection, those Soviet ones were scaled down so you’d have to reconstruct it to the real size.
The most suffered were, understandably, the younger ones, as their fashion ambitions and desires often went unnoticed. Since in the late 1960s it was decided that jeans are unwelcome in the USSR, the practicality and comfort of the denim garments were outlawed. However, the denim failed to become ostracised – quite to the contrary, it was well sought after: often a pair of jeans could cost as much a month’s salary.
This is obviously a later photograph, when the regulations were loosened and the “fashion neighbourhood watch” became less vigilant. Scary, really.
As the Iron Curtain was lifting, the Western ways of dressing were getting more exposure through the movies and tourists. As you can see the envious faces on the background, foreigners did stand out.
The funniest thing is that the Soviet fashion is very hard to break into time periods. Apart from separating the pre-war era fashion from the post war (the later one being non-existent), the bulk of it stretches for over 40 years right up to the 90s. Since then fashion has taken the form of a sexual competition — just like anywhere else in the developed world.