Polish printed textiles and garments created between 1950 and 1989 from the collection of the Central Museum of Textiles in Lodz

Central Museum of Textiles in Lodz
This is a unique place where the history of textile industry meets art and fashion. Here one can see the biggest in Poland and one of the biggest in the world collection of industrial textiles. The museum's collection of garments includes over 3500 objects - mostly originating from Poland and dating from the 20th century.

The precincts of the museum.

Printed fabrics for the masses
The pioneer of the mass production of printed textiles in the then Polish Kingdom was Ludwig Geyer, who came to Łódź from Saxony in 1828. In 1833 he imported from Vienna the first roller machine for multi-colour cotton print. Between 1835 and 1839 he erected the White Factory where he installed the first in Łódź mechanical spinning room, weaving room and cotton printing workshop. Nowadays Geyer's White Factory is the seat of the Central Museum of Textiles. The rich museum collection includes lots of printed textiles and garments, with a huge representation of the Polish products dated between 1950 and 1989 (i.e. from Polish People's Republic period).
Textile designing in Polish People's Republic
In Polish People's Republic period there was an official urge for cooperation between artists and industry. Wanda Telakowska, the founder of the Institute of Industrial Design (established in 1950), claimed that mass-produced clothing fabrics should be pretty and attractive. One of her aims was to increase the level of the product aesthetics. She insisted on the involvement of professional artists in the production of textiles. Artistic schools in Poland - especially Łódź State Art School (PWSSP), contemporary Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź (ASP) - educated professionals who would find employment in design units of textile factories. The designers looked at new trends and eagerly took inspiration from modern art.
Print quality issues
The artistic level of designs for printed fabrics was usually high. However, the final products of Polish textile industry sometimes had poor quality because of technical limitations, wrong materials or just lack of suitable resources. The fabric's appearance was often significantly different from the original design.
Printed fabrics - could everybody buy them?
The textile industry in Polish People's Republic was well-developed. The Polish state was the owner of all big factories (only small-scale private enterprises were permitted). Although the production of printed textiles was relatively easy and inexpensive and various techniques of printing provided a lot of possibilities in pattern designing, the fabrics were not readily available for all willing consumers (the shortage of goods was a typical problem for socialist planned economy). Sometimes it was quite a challenge to get some good-looking fabric for a dress...
Apparel issues
Although there were many state-owned factories which were producing ready-to-wear clohting, considerable amount of apparel were made-to-measure by craftsmen. Sometimes the only way to obtain a desired attire was to sew it on one's own. Sewing clothes at home by yourself or with a little help from befriended tailor or dressmaker was very popular then.
Floral patterns
Floral patterns printed on textiles are a constant fashion trend only their style changes. In Polish design between 1950 and 1989 there was a wide variety of floral motifs.

Autumn leaves and their warm colours have been an inspiration for the print on this bathing suit.

The pattern on this dress slightly resembles oil-painted flowers.

This bathing suit is made of knitted fabric decorated with a floral print which resembles blue pen doodles.

Big white leaves on a blue backgroud look like a paper cut-out.

Some floral motifs were inspired by Polish folk art and traditional folk costume.

Combined patterns
Simplified flowers and geometric shapes mixed together frequently appeared in Polish fashion of 1960s and 1970s.

This set of textile samples shows 7 different colour versions of an extravagant pattern composed of floral and geometric motifs. Each sample has bold and vivid colours.

This blouse has a psychedelic look because of the printed pattern consisting of curved shapes and flowers in vibrant, contrasting colours.

Concentric circles and scattered flowers on this scarf evoke the contrast between the geometric order and the natural randomness.

Floral motifs may also be subordinated to geometric composition, forming regular rows, columns, grids or zigzags.

Flowers and polka dots belong to feminine style; pink and violet are "girlish" colours. Why not mix them all? Violets and dots placed alternately make the printed pattern on this lovely blouse.

Geometric and abstract patterns
Going far beyond the ordinary stripes and checks, Polish designs for printed fabrics played around with modern art.

The pattern of this neckerchief is called "pikasy" and it was popular in Polish design of 1950s and 1960s. The term "pikasy" derives from the name of Pablo Picasso, but the so-named motifs sometimes resemble the paintings of Joan Miró, Paul Klee or Jackson Pollock.

This pattern may have associations with biology. It looks like plant cells seen under magnification.

The clear composition of rectangular fields framed by a simple border compose well with the square shape of the scarf.

The large-scale print on this oversize jacket resembles an abstract painting.

The red, white and navy blue colour combination is common on flags, but it is also popular in fashion. The three colours make a good match and give an elegant look. The pattern may be simple, composed of stripes...

...or it may be more complicated, with a dynamic composition.

No matter how popular the art-inspired designs were, the simple polka-dot pattern was constantly in use.

Paisley pattern
An Oriental design, paisley, had been succesfully resisting the changes of fashion.
Not so serious designs
Printed fabrics in Polish People's Republic sometimes were quite amusing. Amongst the printed motifs there were images of things, animals, human figures as well as inscriptions.

The repeated inscription on this dress means "oxeye daisy".

In defiance of dullness and greyness of the communist times
It is for some extent true to regard communist times as grey and dull. Polish People's Republic period was indeed quite gloomy. Perhaps the easiest way to add some colour and a pinch of beauty into one's personal space was to embellish it with clothes made of colourful printed fabrics. Clothing textiles with varicoloured prints made the everyday life in Polish People's Republic period a little more joyful.
Credits: Story

Curator: Aleksandra Liberska
Cooperation: Lidia Maćkowiak-Kotkowska, Klaudyna Kukuła, Anna Piaszczyńska
Photo editing: Agnieszka Ambruszkiewicz

All rights belong to the Central Museum of Textiles in Lodz unless otherwise stated. For more click here.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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