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