INDEPENDENT SLOVAKIA – VASSAL OF GERMANY
The Nazi ideology being spreading via Europe brought gradually the curtailing and extinction of the first Czechoslovak Republic because of Munich Agreement, of which consequence has been the military occupation of Bohemia and Moravia by declaration of the Protectorate (Bohemia and Moravia) and rise of the Slovak State of which status has being determined by a protective agreement with the German Reich.
Dependence of the Slovak State on Reich´s decisions had far-reaching political, economic also cultural consequences. The Slovak army was taking part in military operations of the Nazi Germany; under the pressure of Germany racial laws were receiving on territory of the Slovak State and comprehensive changes were under way in economic life. Political and civic liberties have been suppressed.
FATE „OF SHOPS ON PROMENADE“
The Hitlerian Germany had for its aim to wind up more nations and ethnic groups and it had so to be proceeded equally also on territory of Slovakia. Already in April 1939 a decree of Slovak government issued which defined the notion „Jew“. In September 1941 so-called Judaic Codex with 270 paragraphs has issued. The trade licences have been taken-away to the Jews; their agricultural property, industrial enterprises but also house property including clothes, jewels, furniture and works of art have been confiscated. Application of racial laws in Slovakia in the practice has meant a transfer of property of Jews into hands of non-Jews –i.e. of Arians. Except for deprival of property the racial laws have forbidden to the Jews to go out into the street; to take part in public life, to visit cinemas, theatres, dance halls or cafes. The Jews obligatorily marked with yellow five-pointed stars have been the everyday image of Slovak townlets.
The Jews on our territory throughout the centuries co-created urban character and as members of the middle and higher class took actively part also in social and cultural life of our country excepting the economic life. Aryanization then violent expropriation of property to Jews has at the most afflicted the small-scale industry (saw mills, liqueur distilleries, ready-made clothes houses) and especially shops.
Also some reputable clothing enterprises have been wound-up from the times of the first Czechoslovak Republic by aryanization. It concerned for example the famous Bratislava firms Fashion House Tausky, Fashion house Buxbaum, Fashion House Blau and Weinberger, the firm Weiss and Fürst, department store S. Braun, Dedeo and Löwy, male tailor Rosenzweig and many others.
Economic life under the Slovak State has been strictly managed and controlled. The most important industrial enterprises and banks were subject directly to the German management. However, Slovakia was differed from surrounding states by the fact that the inflation has been moderate with relation to war circumstances and the Slovak crown was a currency in demand. During the entire war the government has defended itself to introduce a thoroughgoing rationalisation of supplying. Only sugar, flour, bread and several next goods were rationed while in surrounding states the rationing system was bound for instance also to consumption of textiles and clothes. However, buying power of majority of population has been low although the government strived to provide the employment in more ways and so to increase the living standard.
Cotton mills in Ružomberok were the largest textile industrial enterprises in those years and same here textile mills Danubius in Bratislava, wool mills in Trenčín, Žilina and Rajec, thread mill in Bratislava and flax preparing plant in Kežmarok. Enterprises in Bánovce nad Bebravou and in Martin firm Slovenka produced knitted and woven goods: knitted fabric and tricot underwear and yard goods have been made in Banská Štiavnica by the firm Tricota (later Svetro). In Bratislava the firm Dunaj has produced knitted goods (children´s clothes, womenswear and menswear).
Under the Slovak State textile factories and mills have been distinctively marked by war. Because the import of classical textile raw materials had difficulties, the production of artificial fibres began to supersede them. In Svit at Poprad viscose cotton (svit), artificial fibre of character of wool (slovina), artificial fibre of character of cotton (svitna), transparent textile (priesvit) and artificial-silk yarn were produced of cellulose. In Bratislava a progressive enterprise for production of artificial fibre of cotton type: vistra did corne into existence also with regard to the European circumstances. Substitute artificial fibres were made also in Senica. The increase of production of artificial fibres marked also the period fashion. The dresses, blouses, night underwear, scarves were sewn from artificial cottons and the artificial wool served for production of yardage suitable for suits and costumes.
Baťa was the largest producer who in 1943 was employing 3 115 people in production of shoes, in wool processing and in the production of artificial fibre. In Šimonovany (today´s Partizánske and during the war called as Baťovany) the Baťa´s works have being finished building the production halls and new residential quarter for employees. The Baťa´s works for production of shoes have prospered also at the expense of smaller enterprises. In that time the firms for shoes production had commonly 20 to 40 employees. The shoes began to be manufactured from various substitute materials for lack of leather and in that the Baťa´s works have been very progressive. The shoes with wood half-sole were produced; upper part was combined with wool, cloth, textile yarn but also with bast. The “rolled-about” boots i.e. felt boots, and plimsolls – as shoes from coarser cloth became so fashionable. Ladies´ pumps (or court shoes) and low shoes (e.g. bootees) were made also substitute materials and from them thanks to advertisement just the firm Baťa has made a fashion trend.
More clothing works survived the disintegration of Czechoslovakia and their production persisted also during the existence of the Slovak State. They disposed of network of shops in Slovak towns and they advertised in the period print. In spite of the fact that some of them have been taken-over by the German capital, the being become used brand names persisted and the firms were furthermore employing the inhabitants of Slovakia. In Trenčín in 1939 they opened a branch of the Czech enterprise Nehera which did have to be sold-off by its owner to the German firm Hanisch, but the trademark has functioned furthermore. It was presented like a Slovak firm in the period print; it had 300 employers. In Púchov at the end of the war ready-made clothes of Czech firm Rolný have commenced to sew which persisted in Bohemia still from the Monarchy. In Hlohovec a clothing enterprise for production of topcoats and suits Sbor did exist. In Prešov new clothing enterprise Magura has been established which has worked-out itself from a small workshop to a firm with many shops in Slovakia.
The ready-made clothes houses as Nehera or Rolný had for their aim especially the mass production and they did not compare to hand-sewn tailor-made clothes by their quality. The same was valid also for the shoes. The products of the firm Baťa have been determined for lower middle class.
THE BEST „TAILOR-MADE“ CLOTHES
The made-to-measure clothes were remaining steadily the most appreciated ones. Ladies and gentlemen have furthermore their suits, shirts, costumes, dresses and blouses made with tailor. In the period print it is possible to see that more kinds of services of this type in each region of Slovakia have been. Tailor´s shops did exist, in which the master and his helpers have sewn-up the clothes according to a model, they could advice in the cut they oriented themselves also in novelties. Major tailor´s shops were further a group which were manufacturing the clothes in major measure; these some small ready-made clothes houses have been. In case that the offered clothes did not sit well on they made promptly a repair. Except for this tailor´s salons did exist which have an ambition to be more „nobly“. Explanation, forms of advertisement in print, quality of cloths, finer working-up of details, way of communication with client and, of course, the price have testified about it. Thoroughly snug clothes either with men or with women have been a manifestation of elegance, a norm of good taste.
Also therefore many families were employing couturieres regularly being coming into their household. Excepting the running maintenance of clothes and quilting (alteration) they manufactured often tailor-mad e clothes. They enriched the wardrobe of a woman by simpler pieces whereas the better situated landlady had the evening dress, coat or costume tailor-made in tailor´s salon.
Militant atmosphere of Europe was projected also into the fashion silhouette at the end of the thirties. Above all it began to acquire some distinctively angular shapes in shoulders as well as elements related with military uniform. Voluminous angular shoulders have delivered to the female figures a sternness and manhood. With favour they were accented not only on the coats and light jackets but also on the dresses and blouses. Angularity of shoulders was augmented with some more padding so as it never has been in the female clothing silhouettes till now. Bravery, force and courage had to be proved also by women in times of war, and namely not only by deeds also by the clothes.
Astuteness of fashion designers has been also despite this masculinisation visible on the details of the cut of top parts of clothes – blouses, pullovers and upper parts of dresses. The elegance has been delivered to the clothes particularly by heterogeneously designed yokes of dresses and blouses for instance by draping (or shirring), asymmetry, knitting-through, knotting and the like. In contrast with shoulders they were helping to form the effect of petite shank which infused a frailty to the female silhouette.
The skirt in bottom part made the entire silhouette in shape of X complete which has been shorter, approximately knee-deep, for daily wearing against the fashion of the thirties.
Costume was a very wide-spread type of ladies´ clothes which could remind a uniform by some details (distinctive buttons, pockets, epaulettes). Ladies´ jackets alike as the men´s ones have been completed in back part with a decorative small strip; jackets with inverted pleat in dorsal part have been popular. It was differentiated between English costume which has been more modest in the cut of jacket and completed with a simpler rather evener skirt, and French costume of which the design of cut has been more demanding and striking, in total.
The costumes were a suitable daily dressing either already to work for current but also for more nonstandard daily occasions (visit of exposition or a more formal encounter). The dresses were worn for current daily opportunities at the most from spring to autumn. Shorter dresses in a spread from a knee-deep length to calf-deep were worn for daily occasions. The dresses had a more social character against costume. Into the dance hall or onto the promenade the elegant ladies have worn the dresses not a costume. For evening opportunities have been reserved the long dresses; a length up to ankles prevailed in more modest models. Silk was the most luxury material which was substituting also by viscose silk. The evening dresses have been always distinctively low-necked.
The furs were effect complements on the costumes, completes, dresses and topcoats in the forties. Their liking has persisted still from past times – the furs of foxes, polecats or minks on one shoulder or two have been negligently thrown-over on the hand, with their heads, with their small paws.
Blouse as a complement into the costume or in combination only with the skirt already was a current part of wardrobe of women of all social classes. Cotton blouses, viscose blouses and the silk ones with long or short sleeves, with printing, the embroidered ones, without patterns – they used to be worked-into the skirt or into trousers. Also smock was popular which have being remained fully rolled-up and it was girding-round in the waist by a belt.
The war silhouette will capture one´s interest at first sight especially by two types of clothing complements – by worked-up, striking elegant hats and by shapeless up to rough shapes of shoes. The headgear became a substitution for scaled-down and simplified elegance of dresses. The hats vested by their resourceful up to bizarre forms to the figure of woman a seclusive elegance inducing an impression as if the head had dream t those most relaxed dreams. (The female clothes is thankful for this playfulness to Else Schiaparelli – to a fashion female designer who has designed unbelievable, extravagant and out of mondaine world of Paris up to „nonwearable“ clothes and complements).
So far unparalleled forms of shoes in fashion clothes characteristic rather for traditional or working dress were worn on feet. Shapelessness and massiveness of shoes such being unusual in history of fashion, which have preferred elegance of subtle foot and shoes, have been a real novelty. Moreover lack of leather caused using of materials up to then being wide-spread only in rural or labour environments: wood, felt, textile as the case may be. Fine „(small) lady´s slippers“ have superseded rougher shoes often with robust platform. Slim ladies´ legs have lost their charm and gracefulness in them. The hard reality of the days has required also rigid, stabile and course shoes.
A suit with shirt, necktie and headgear were constantly the basis of men´s wardrobe. The gentlemen have dressed not other formal shirt than a white one; the jacket has been always fastened; dinner-jacket, tail coat or jacket have been still steadily in compulsory wardrobe of a gentleman. Into the suit a tie or butterfly hand-bound were always worn.
The suits had in the wardrobe of gentleman various looks: daily working suit, daytime formal one (also the morning coat was got used still steadily to be worn), formal evening black suit (especially the communist intellectuals were giving up dinner-jackets or tail coats), further the lounge suit and the sports one.
The head of a gentleman but also of a man physically working has been always covered-up – with a hat or by a cap with visor (this was rather a proletarian complement suitable for gentleman only for golf or other sport). Among working class also something as tammies (also as berrets) called „berets“ were popular.
In the period journals a great attention to physical arrangement of men and to the men´s fashion was not paid. If a gentleman wanted to inform himself upon that what is just fashionable he had to rely on Czech or foreign men´s fashion journals.
A man was considered for the “well-dressed“ one to who a suit was a perfect fit on his figure. This was attained by bespoke tailoring. Length of sleeves and trousers, height of collar, well-tied-up cravate (or necktie) or bow- tie and suitably inserted handkerchief in breast pocket of jerkin got to know who can to dress oneself or not.
IDEAL FROM JOURNALS
Adult mature woman has been the ideal of beauty. French fashion magazines brought constantly a fashion ideal in clothing. Although the war is lulling all muses, to the fashion it remained only nevertheless to be permitted to leave the women to dream a little also despite difficult times. Everyday reality, however, was other one. Prevailing Nazi propaganda presented the woman like brave, modest, German woman being steadily working. German but also Slovak nationalistic wave propagated the clothes in folk style particularly the dresses and blouses have been decorated with embroideries. Also a fondness of German dirndls, of dresses typical for some German regions, was spread to us from the German period fashion magazines.
However, the women were inspired at the most by elegance in gloom of cinema halls where the stunners of silver screen have presented to them the unattainable robes manufactured by top designers. In Slovakia especially Czech and German movies were available. Renowned Prague fashion house Podolská and Vlková were manufacturing the clothes for Prague film studios at Barrandov where were arising also many German movies. Those women were dressing Czech movie stars also in their private life.
The news from the world of the Czech or German movie have being brought also by the main period periodical with us – New Slovakia (monthly journal) and New World (weekly paper). Women of all social classes could see and cut out their idols, be inspired by their hairdo, dresses or make-up. Separate „female“ columns did exist in every edition of the New Slovakia and New World. They have been dedicated to the fashion, etiquette, clothing, self-manufacturing the clothes: advices and tips how to be elegant also to the children´s clothes got used to be variegated also with information from abroad. A separate fashion magazine, however, was not issuing in Slovakia. It was possible to procure especially the Czech, German and Austrian fashion magazines.