It will be, perhaps, the shortest fashion column in Opinion in all history. The editor-in-chief and I were at a loss when it came to writing a fashion column this week. Is it appropriate, given the events in the country? And suddenly, I remembered one story.
In June 1941, my great-grandfather threw a huge bag onto his back, about half filled with various junk, and another half with a Zinger sewing machine. He also took two frightened women ‒ his wife and daughter – pushed them onto the train and drove to Tashkent. He went with them himself because someone should have brought that machine, it weighed pretty much. He drove them to Tashkent, left there, and returned to Bessarabia, recently “liberated” and attached to the Soviet Union, along with Bukovyna and Galicia. And he went to war from there. Great-grandfather went through the whole war, got Budapest, miraculously saved from drowning in the Danube… but that’s another story, and here I’m talking about the sewing machine.
My seventeen year old grandmother and her mother stayed in Tashkent. Compared to Ukraine, where imminent death awaited them, they were completely safe there. But it was still necessary to live and earn for life, and they had only a sewing machine and the golden hands of the great-grandmother. Therefore, she sewed and mended clothes during the war. War is war, but people still need to wear something. And if suddenly some lady, who strangely had gorgeous silk fabrics, time and inspiration to sew and wear exquisite dresses, had come to my great-grandmother, she couldn’t have had enough time and energy to condemn her. On the contrary, I think she was genuinely happy that thanks to this lady, she had a job and had money to buy food and medicine, when necessary.
My grandmother told me so: the sewing machine fed us, I don’t know, would have we survived or not, if we hadn’t had it. After the war, this machine-nurse returned home to Bessarabia. In the 80s I still managed to learn how to stitch on it. Now, these old machines are placed in restaurants and shops as an item of the interior because they have such beautiful “legs” with patterns. Vintage, nostalgia, authenticity ‒ this is a trend. But for me, every such machine is a reference to the story of my family. Maybe, I’m talking to you here now only thanks to that great-grandmother’s machine.
And when I hear a question like: is there time for a fashion when there’s a martial law in the country, or whether it’s appropriate to care about clothes and hairstyles during the war ‒ I have the answer. They can be both. To help the army is important, to help the economy, to enable people to earn money is also important. Someone is now stitching on new sewing machines, and for 50 years will tell grandchildren how those dresses and those machines helped to survive difficult times. So, maybe you do not just buy a dress, but you create someone’s story!
Fashion is a whimsey lady. We often mock at her and she deserves it. But sometimes it is worth looking at the fashion from another perspective. Because as long as women are interested in fashion and fashionable dresses are in demand ‒ life goes on!
Maya Tulchynska, fashion blogger