Publication Details

This article was originally published as Cockburn, J, Clothing the Soviet Mechanical-Flâneuse, The Space Between, 2005, 1(1). .


Jon Cockburn looks at fashion trends on both sides of the Atlantic to examine images of and ideals for the modern woman. At the center of his analysis is a history of the Soviet “mechanical-flâneuse,” a distinctive twentieth-century variation upon the nineteenth-century European metropolitan “flâneuse” (or intelligent idler), that emerged through Soviet interpretations of the American efficiency movement. Cockburn traces the efforts of three avant-garde designers who tried to realize the mechanical-flâneuse in the Soviet Union, but shows that as Stalin rose to power, production of the mechanical-flâneuse was restricted to an increasingly theoretical realm. Politics eventually trumped the efficient art of the mechanical-flâneuse in Soviet Russia, but Cockburn concludes that she emerged triumphant elsewhere, clothed in Coco Chanel’s little black dress.

Link to publisher version (URL)

The Space Between