It’s funny that a country that had so many beautiful women had not even sexy underwear. One can easily talk about sexless underwear… This situation is due to the background of that time and happily for them and also for us, it has changed since. So here are some pics and explanations for those of you who are interested in this topic.
Mini dress slips These mini slip dresses were often the only specifically designed female undergarment (even the bras were made in one size up to mid-1930s). They were meant to ensure a better fit for the dresses, to provide an extra layer in winter and, for many women, it was a hygienic necessity: as the bath or shower did not feature in every household, sometimes washing up would happen only once in a few days.
Photos of the slips in an old fashion book. Circa 1950s. The rumours have it that after the war some lucky women were brought the trophy slips from Germany — and wore them out as evening dresses. It might as well be an urban legend, but for some reason I would personally tend to believe it.
Night gowns, warm and celibate. Would have been made of thick flowery flannel. According to some document circa 1940s, the sanitary norms were that each woman should own at least two sets of underwear which she would not wear for longer than 5 – 7 days.
Gym gear. God forbid. The magazinesof those times did not offer fashionable solutions: quite the contrary, they tried to lift the spirit of women by including some not so subtle propaganda articles. “A harmoniously developed person as a builder of the communistic future has a rich inner world, as well physical health, high morality and culture”
Gymnast girls. Sport gear. Despite all medals awarded, the USSR Olympic gear was still far from flash. There were never any fitting rooms, as bras were considered to be a hygiene item and fitting was not allowed, nor exchange was possible. Considering that the size range was really limited (say, small, medium and large), being a woman wasn’t easy. However, the diy fans were really doing it themselves – any fashion book would have a detailed tutorial on how to sew a bra. Those who succeeded at this filigree activity were doing it for friends and friends of friends, as a nice secondary income. The fabrics would be plain (not stretchy!) cotton with buttons.
I guess it would be number four of five from the previous image. Usually the new models and designs were approved once every five years as high as the ministerial level. That was the main decision-making time: even the number of buttons had to gain consent.
Something for the male: swim gear, every day wear, the Soviet boxers. When the problem with bras what somewhat solved (or at least minimised), tights and stockings were still in huge demand. It is truly unbelievable who the country, whose engineers could envisage sending people into the outer space, could not come up with something resembling lycra to provide women with elastic tights! The Soviet stockings were made of plain cotton and were of black and nude colour. Often the supply in shops was so minimal that women had to sew stockings to a pair of underpants
DIY In a modern movie East-West the main female character fails her mission as she gets recognized as a Russian – the guard notices her truly horrible stockings! Moreover, knowing how fragile a pair of stockings is and how difficult it is to find it in shops, Russian beauties would share tips with each other on how to prolong the life of this delicate garment: the suggestions to freeze it before wear or mend the holes with nail warnish. Nothing works, of course, but it was well worth trying.
Another shop scene. Still no fitting room in sight. By 1970, the textile industry had allowed a range of nine sizes for bras, which was more than welcome. However, the styles were still, well, behind, even by the most modest of standards. Another legend goes that when the French actor and singer Yves Montand came to Moscow and saw the Russian underwear, he laughed so hard he couldn’t stop for a while — and then bought the whole lot to display in Paris later. The exhibition, understandibly, was popular with the French and not so popular with the Russian authorities, so the relationships became tense.
Do you think it’s handmade? Beach wear, 1951 The unisex of the communism epoch would not allow any beach wear up to 1970s: before that the swimsuits were either handmade (even knitted) or women had to wear the undergarments to the beach.
A flower child of Soviet origin The most important message here is probably that “Soviet” is not an ideology, it is about the planned economy (badly planned, unfortunately) and hence the affected every day lives of regular people who had no access to the foreign, imported, pretty things. Any item, be it a TV set or a bra, should just solely serve its purpose, and the frills are not necessary at all.