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This paper explores the contrasts between the draconic taxation policies affecting garment production, dissemination, and intake in 1930s Romania and the concurrent glamour displayed by fashion-consuming women in public spaces in Bucharest. The focus is on the relationship between the Romanian state and the idea of fashionability represented by the flâneuses promenading Calea Victoriei. This paper employs visual and written text analysis to determine the commonalities in messaging and language used in the literature related to women’s fashion in interwar Bucharest. The sources range from fiction and non-fiction interwar books, illustrated and glossy periodicals, photographs, and postcards from the author’s personal collection. This research is built on the interdisciplinary model of fashion studies, borrowing methods from semiotics, cultural, fashion, and Romanian studies. Through the lens of fashion, the aim is to decode the negotiations between state authority agendas and women’s wish for prosperity and modernity.
In 1918, Scottish writer and traveler Winifred Gordon witnessed Bucharest’s high-street effervescence, where flaneurs and the “dark-eyed elegantes” populated “the Chaussée” and Calea Victoriei.1 In 1930, the illustrated weekly Realitatea Ilustrată, presented Calea Victoriei as a sinuous avenue, half Western and half Eastern, anything but “beautiful.” By the 1930s, foreigners witnessed fashionable ladies in silk stockings, high heels, fingerless gloves, expensive pearls, and flowery kerchiefs.2 In 1931, the journal Oglinda Lumii warned flâneuses that a certain distress affected their freshness and charm. That is, the article’s author claimed that men thought women on Calea Victoriei were always serene, but they concealed stress, illustrated by a “typical” woman “frivolously” pressured to follow the latest fashion. This invented character was still an enchanting lady in the author’s view, despite feeling old in her mid-twenties, and, as the author noted, left only with full-time philosophy study.3 This specific university degree added to the invented character’s description is well in line with the similarly “typical” degrees interwar Romanian women pursued, namely Philology, Philosophy, or Law. Furthermore, this situation denotes some implied security with enough time and resources for extended leisure activities. I use the term flâneuse as a feminine evolution from Charles Baudelaire’s flaneur, personifying style and freedom to roam.4
Meanwhile, Romania was at the precipice of King Carol II’s royal dictatorship. The regime’s increasingly authoritarian policies also affected Romania’s emerging fashion and beauty industries. In January 1933, Monitorul Oficial offered a detailed report of Senate proceedings.5 Senator Mihail Theodorescu addressed the luxury and revenue taxation issue by proposing corrective legislative measures. According to him, steep duties were “very necessary to the state’s finances” considering the ongoing financial crisis.6 Next, Virgil Madgearu argued that since its 1921 introduction as a temporary measure, luxury taxation’s broad scope and “elasticity” made it “the most productive indirect tax.”7 He proposed updating the 1930s standards, including a fair differentiation between finite, raw, and intermediary products, avoiding accumulated domestic dues, “largely suppressed,” especially for companies over “five horsepower or six workers.”8 Silk was taxed as a luxury item and for its revenue, abolishing its special status and necessitating clarification on silk category taxation percentages.9 Madgearu claimed this would earn the state treasury “a few hundred million lei.”10 Conversely, a hundred million lei in 1933 was around $855,000.11 While these discussions did not reach fashionconsuming Romanian women directly, their indirect effects, as published in the Monitorul Oficial, affected Calea Victoriei prices.
This paper compares the two opposite interwar sartorial languages: the dynamism of street fashion (Calea Victoriei) and the conservatism of legislation (Monitorul Oficial). It focuses on the fashion industry as a traditional avenue for women’s entrepreneurship.12 As twentieth-century historiographical research on women’s contribution has been largely deficient,13 the increased interest in fields like fashion studies, with a long history of critique and dismissal, is consequential. While couturiers have claimed to belong to high art, fashion cannot be separated from its commercial and consumerist connotations.14 The two dichotomic elements symbolize Romania’s complex aspirations, rather than strict depictions of physical locations or objects. This paper builds upon my previous more extensive research on Romanian interwar fashion, in which I investigate the progressive and repressive aspects of interwar fashion, including its relationship to gender and modernity;15 women in the city;16 fashion, media, and glamour;17 fashion trend cyclicity;18 fashion and austerity;19 fashion and politics in general;20 fashion in art;21 and more generally, fashion, empire, democracy,22 or Parisian fashion during the Nazi occupation.23 This paper adds interwar Bucharest to the discussion as a fertile ground for research. It also complements relevant English-language literature on interwar Romanian gender dynamics24 in connection to eugenics and modernization;25 fascism and Romanian intellectuals;26 Romanian eugenic national and bodily purification,27 or Romanian modernism.28 This study introduces fashion studies concepts to Romanian studies and history and connects seemingly unrelated topics for a new, valid approach. Interwar gender realities, negotiated on an expansion–contraction spectrum, offer valuable clues on the 1930s fervent march towards World War II and their current echoes.
Women’s “movement” between the Calea Victoriei and Monitorul Oficial extremes, illustrated through their attitude and elegance, adds further substance to the growing literature on women’s fashion in interwar modernity. This paper juxtaposes the fashionable flâneuse as object and subject of inquiry and the increasingly dictatorial state mandates embodying the desired ultraconservative or extreme-right-wing identity markers. It is based upon Lisa R. Lattuca’s review of interdisciplinary types,29 which as an informed study remains disciplinary in fashion studies and reaches out to other fields and methods, including semiotics and culture, fashion, and Romanian studies. I use visual and textual discourse analysis of interwar sources relevant to modernity and interwar women’s realities in a political, social, and cultural context, framed through fashion’s creative, technical, and capitalist pursuits. Bucharest’s fashion-consuming middle-class women are in the focus of research as clear representatives of modernity and capitalism. I refer to the Romanian capital of Bucharest as a “city,” “cityspace”30 and “cityscape.”31 I acknowledge Bucharest’s complexity in its traditional or poetical depiction as the Bucharests, reminiscent of modernity’s multiplicity. I use this pluralization for interconnected spaces within Romania’s capital. “Little Paris” is used here as an expansive symbol of anything allowing women to gain more freedom, the desired space driven by modernization. In contrast, items published in Monitorul Oficial symbolized often aggressive measures imposed by a state informed by an increasingly radicalized “Romanianization” project. The protectionist economic measures affected the affordability of fashion and beauty items required for women’s elegance in their roles as fashionable ambassadors of beauty. The tax policies, meant to regulate personal and public health and hygiene, further complicated women’s predicament. They are contractive symbols of restricting women and were ideologically motivated, often supported by pseudo-scientific, medical, moral, and traditionalist argumentations. Women’s fashion is a constant motion on the Calea Victoriei–Monitorul Oficial spectrum. Articulating women’s identities through fashion is thus a dynamic process of multidirectional negotiations among subjects and objects of decision making.
One more clarification. I use “new woman” for 1930s feminine models, as opposed to the 1920s “modern girl.” This distinction illustrates changing gender paradigms, from the emancipated Ancient Egypt-inspired, slender flapper or garçonne, to the more mature, Grecian, curvier femininity model introduced after the Great Depression. This terminology recognizes the plurality of definitions, from Mary Louise Roberts’s depiction of the late nineteenth-century more daring Jane Eyre “new woman” model32 to one more akin to Maria Bucur’s description of “wellborn mothers” linked to eugenics.33 It distinguishes from the “modern girl” archetype’s wider usage into the 1930s,34 focusing on the mid-interwar discourse heralding a return to luxurious feminine forms.35

Interwar Bucharest: fashion, modernity, women

Interwar “Little Paris” spaces seemed disconnected from history. Calea Victoriei is the most visible example, as its identity expressed both historical and modern ideas. It was still a typical large city’s “main street,” consistent with its frequent name changes.36 These shifts occurred concomitant with a genuine “architectural explosion,” leading to “the city’s most fortunate eras from a stylistic perspective.”37 Its flâneuses struggled to remain elegant despite economic hardships. And albeit not yet primary wage earners, Romanian working women were accepted as a necessary compromise in a time of financial need and lacking workforce, provided they did not demand equality with the men. Even if not overtly feminist, publicly present interwar women were among the most visible general markers of modernity, understood both in its progressive and repressive connotations. In their view, modernity, especially in its inherent rebellion, should only be whispered and kept away from the prying eyes of moral authorities. If defined through the emerging field of luxury studies as outlined by John Armitage and Joanne Roberts, urban fashion and women’s relationship with traditionalism is examined in terms of morality and “the material and immaterial struggle to find and perhaps defend the meaning of the limitless.”38 Bucharest’s newly-dominant bourgeoisie was only modern in appearance, its soul still revering tradition and veering towards nationalistic pathos by the 1930s. Interwar Romanian women’s fashion was used to assert national identity through a paradoxical, transnational mechanism.39 1930s women’s fashion adds visibility to interwar Romanian evolution in perfect accord with worldwide phenomena. Djurdja Bartlett observed that fashion’s predilection towards unity bypasses “the divisive politics of the day” as it “does not divide us along the lines of nation, race, sex, and gender.”40 Fashion’s inherent modern desire for “fetishistic commodities” informed its “potential transgressive and political traits.”41 Calea Victoriei’s flâneuses were political agents, even outside the Monitorul Oficial purview.
Fig. 1: Calea Victoriei, 1930. Ioan Tik, “Aspecte bucureștene. Calea Victoriei,” Ilustrațiunea Română, II, no. 18 (1930), 4.
The first explosion of mass-produced fashion occurred in the 1930s.42 This mirrors Matei Călinescu’s insight on the new and desired versus the old and unwanted within modernity, unworkable outside historical time.43 Bucharest was reimagined as an industrialized business system. According to Anton Golopenția, by 1938, industry workers totaled around 30 percent of Bucharest’s active citizens. He did not fail to highlight the Jewish minority’s preponderance in professions related to credit and representation, in agencies, and trade.44 This type of antisemitic discourse justified the forcible push for “Romanianization.” This hybrid spirit bucureștean (Bucharest spirit) became a Romanian embodiment of the esprit Parisien adding to the Eastern-European contributions to the Parisian fashion system.45 Even if also associated with Hollywood glamour,46 Calea Victoriei flâneuses echoed Parisian fleeting fashions. Markers like luxury can be reversed or forgotten even within one’s lifetime as a personal or collective choice.47 Fashion can be controversial in non-Western spaces if viewed as a European invention of modernity,48 but Romanian dress was already Western as King Carol II’s return from exile and his royal dictatorship marked the 1930s. Just as fashion columns throughout Romania applauded the demise of 1920s “modern girls,” the “new Romanian woman” was to be re-fashioned accordingly.
Fluidity, inferred by fashion and modernity, functions beyond creative pursuits. The malleability in assigning meanings suggests that women’s fashion blends symbolic significations. Malcolm Barnard’s idea of noise as unintended transmissions eliminating the failed assumption of a conscious sender can also be applied to the research on interwar women’s fashion.49 Beside conventional messaging, noise adds dimensions of unpredictability and entropy, bringing the view closer to an authentic representation of lived histories. Barnard proposed a relativized model acknowledging fashion’s ever-changing meanings.50 As Christopher Breward contended, fashionable identity is “an active agent of change” fixed as object and spatial experience of “an amalgamation of textiles and seams, an interface between the body and its environment.”51 Bucharest harbored developments towards a modern, capitalist state, at least to a superficial outer gaze through women’s fashion. As it accommodated “Calea Victoriei” and “Monitorul Official,” noise then completes message transmission and signification. The movement occurs beyond a binary, linear trajectory, as an effervescent and colorful intermingling of chatter and aspirations.

Bucharest fashion on display

Cezar Petrescu presented Calea Victoriei’s metamorphosis from daylight flânerie to modern nightlife on a frosty winter night. Bucharest’s women never frowned or worried after sunset, nor did they care for the touch of frost as they rushed on foot or by automobile to their destinations. Petrescu’s Calea Victoriei abounded with multicolored neon signboards, luminous shop windows, and flickering streetlights amid laughter and music from concert halls, taverns, restaurants, or dancing clubs. Women with “tragically painted cheeks” walked near the walls “as frightful and saddening creatures of the night.”52 Edith Nepean remarked that women perusing Calea Victoriei were either “of the military set, with carefully coiffured hair and exquisite complexions,” or “obtrusively lipsticked cocottes.” She noted the prevalence of tailor shops advertising the use of the so-called “Étoffe Anglais” for a genuinely chic image, because “in this city of Oriental flavor, where East meets West, one must sport English fashions.”53 Yet the cheap items loved by Western visitors during interwar Bucharest were not so affordable to the local population. The analysis hence requires a deeper exploration of urban fashion practices.
The street alone cannot function as a landscape of signification. As these examples illustrate, street fashion blended the multiple interpretations of current trends in transit and was conceived for high street promenades, giving a sense of aesthetic dissonance.54 While Winifred Gordon did not juxtapose “elegantes” with the flâneuse, she intuited the main goal of their public presence at “social times,” epitomizing Romania’s intended modernity through a stunning and up-to-date visual presence. As the financial crisis and the war drums intensified, this attitude remained the leitmotif of interwar Bucharest’s representation through its women. This complicates the equation, as its basic terms, “women,” “fashion” and “city” coalesce in public, Western-friendly spaces. The first two are interlinked, especially in fashion communication.55 Beyond gender, the key relationship remains the intrinsic, equivocal connection between fashion and the cityspace’s identity markers, like Calea Victoriei as character and background. The street’s sole legitimacy as a space for fashion display derives from its connection to the public sphere contrasting “ordinary” outfits with haute couture.56
Fig. 2: My great-grandmother, Adela Vodă, as a 1930s fashionable flâneuse. The unknown gentleman was cut from the picture possibly by my great-grandmother herself [the author’s personal collection].
Fashion became a powerful equalizer,57 coalescing with Calea Victoriei’s motivation as apparent democratization of transiting masses, in the same-looking clothes, stockings, furs, and cars. This “brotherly” equality also appeared in Realitatea Ilustrată alongside luxury and elegance.58 Yet, as Mike Featherstone asserted, elegance, comfort, and expense belong to luxury.59 This equality extends to the roles assigned to cityspace dwellers in public spaces, freely shifting from observer to observed. Michel de Certeau contended one could not claim both, especially when aiming for a more comprehensive understanding, far from the street itself and vice versa.60 Monitorul Oficial messaging became Calea Victoriei’s nemesis in its attempt to eradicate democracy and cosmopolitanism at the street level, attempting to replace flâneuses with costumed marching young men and, occasionally, women. Alexandru Nora accused urban fashionability of mercantilism and leading society into a “smiling anarchy,” lacking individuality and consciously falling prey to the fashion industry’s hypnosis.61 Yet visual and textual depictions suggest that 1930s women occupying the “Little Paris” public spaces gladly participated as glamorous ambassadors of Romanian modernity. In a broader sense, a critical view of “luxury” permits wider significations beyond abundance or excess. This implies a deep-seated psychological need for a comfort-generating “flattery or jollity and to produce games, feasts, and dance, and their capacity to luxuriate in choice tablecloths, expensive soft beds, opulent living rooms and inequalities of wealth.”62 Stemming from social and personal inclinations, this invalidates any anti-luxury rhetoric. Rebecca Arnold argued this resistance against fashion justified through morality, class, and taste parameters intensified twentieth-century consumerism and thrill-seeking against “real life’s” “stifling monotony.”63 If Calea Victoriei is a central character in Bucharest’s story, its fashionability embodies its romanticized contrasts. As a street, it epitomizes Certeau’s idea of “tours” and detours,64 especially at its border spaces, where the individual can swiftly cross from “Little Paris” to Bucharest’s slums, the mahalale. Monitorul Oficial is both outright villain and Saturnian enforcer bringing some order to interwar Romanian chaos.
Fashion remained a significant differentiation factor in the communication between the legislature and the public at street level. Most interwar Romanian governments insisted on industrialization and quantitative results. The reality presented in statistical annuals was one of investments and industrial capital and labor force growth. According to a 1940 official report, textile industry investments increased by 2.5 billion lei throughout the 1930s (Table 1).65 This was a failure in interpreting the Romanian market. Authorities did not build a creativity-friendly environment for small tailors to flourish into couturiers. Economists prided themselves in numbers satisfying national demand, disregarding quality and economic reality. Luxury implies material, but especially symbolic value, as a promise of “indulgence” as desirability and pleasure.66 Interwar Romanian fashion and beauty continued its late nineteenthcentury path as obsolete traditional merchants made way for modern stores and tailoring-centered fashion houses, including the Romanian Tailoring Academy and its state-supported network.67 Such institutions created a generation of gifted workers and a tradition for textile factories surviving well into the communist era. Interwar Bucharest did not replicate the efforts to direct the Parisian fashion and textile industries to warrant a “fashion capital title.”68
Fashion’s position around art is also subject to interpretation, as a liminal form like photography, somewhere between art and non-art.69 Fashion is innately visual, constantly negotiating utilitarian and aesthetic themes.70 The increasing mechanization of creation, production, and consumption risked depersonalization through changed and multiplied representations, products, and consumers.71 This was the path chosen by Romania’s economic authorities when textile manufacture and commerce evolved into an automated industrial mass production of untaxed raw materials. Bucharest became an extraordinary follower with able technicians. Elegance was a “sacred duty” for all Romanian women to lighten up the country and the men’s gloomy mood.72 The effect could be witnessed in post-1989 memoirs73 and historical accounts,74 where interwar Bucharest was presented as a burgeoning, modern, and cosmopolitan capital, blending progress and conservatism. As Cezar Petrescu wrote, Calea Victoriei was an escape for an endless human outpouring from everywhere in the capital and the country with all of “speckled Romania’s tongues and dialects.”75 Calea Victoriei’s expansive fashion practices and Monitorul Oficial’s contractive legislative measures shared the motivation to direct the masses to apply certain intended models.

Negotiating the “Little Paris” themes

Bucharest’s modernity-dictated dinner parties and balls were a socialite’s prerogative. They served a similar purpose in a crisis-stricken 1930s Bucharest. At the height of protectionism and austerity, a winter 1936 article from the daily Adevărul presented a “splendid” dancing soirée organized by a Ms Gigi-Liane Leopold Stern at her Izvor house. The guests included Romanian writers like Cezar Petrescu, industrialists, influential entrepreneurs, military personnel, and, most importantly, socialites. The theme was floral, and the venue had a stylish bar. Accompanied by a jazz orchestra, the party abounded with novelties and surprises until late into the night. Ms Stern donned a “gracious dentelle bleu ciel gown, ampleur, bande de velours bleu-nuit, orchidée sur l’épaule,” according to Adevărul. The preponderance of French fashion terms illustrates both Romania’s Francophonie and inadequate textile and fashion terminology. “Mrs Engineer” Cezar Popescu donned a midnight blue dress with a sequin bow, Mrs Marie-Anne Mircea Ionescu an “admirable” white velvet dress, and Mrs Yvonne Brezulescu an elegant dress which the unnamed reporter termed as a “black slave” model. Mrs Mimoza Grădișteanu chose lamé, gold and white, and Mrs Sanda Engler royal blue velveteen.76 Such events illustrate the elasticity of the fashion spectrum, with individuals seamlessly moving back and forth between the extremes, avoiding public scrutiny.
Women’s fashion demonstrates subtle movements within Bucharest’s 1930s expanding middle class and its influence on Romania’s evolution. Fashionable women’s choices mirrored Romania’s social, political, economic, and cultural inner workings. According to Djurdja Bartlett, capitalist systems turned women into “modern subjects” as they were recognized to be the main fashionconsuming market within a larger “proletarianisation of the commodity drive.”77 Women thus reflected personal and collective developments. “Little Paris” receives a symbolic dimension akin to the idea of esprit Parisien, described by Agnès Rocamora as a universal spirit of refined sophistication personified by the proverbial Parisienne.78 This is in contrast to its identity as the region’s northernmost “Little Paris,” and thus self-described as the most civilized.79 Paris was the “fashion capital,” as Frédéric Godart indicated, because of its quality as a “multi-level imaginary and symbolic socio-economic space” and a center for decisionmaking and dissemination, not manufacturing.80 Sophie Kurkdjian attributed the French city’s title to its “cultural and social secular background,” along with the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century’s “implementation of complementary business and labor structures” enforcing its reception as a “fashion cluster.”81 A fashion capital implies deeper reasoning, which is why interwar Bucharest evaded a “fashion capital” identity, despite public interest in fashion and a growing textile industry. The main reason was Romania’s reverence for French culture and its fashion exports, as seen in Bucharest’s so-called “fashion houses” with French names and offers of “the latest Parisian models,” an omnipresent phrase in interwar Romanian advertisements. Catherine Durandin contended this collection of amalgamated Bucharests playing upon the city’s plural designation had nothing in common with the “real” Paris, ignoring the Romanian capital’s complexities and elegant women on Calea Victoriei not equating with “the rigorous ordering on Champs-Élysées.”82 But Colonel N.I. Popescu-Lumină deemed Bucharest’s modernized streets, namely the Brătianu Boulevard, as “a sort of” Champs-Élysées.83 This comparison hints at the 1930s generalized international Ancient Greek obsession as a reaction to the 1920s “Egyptian craze” and Monitorul Oficial-like extreme-right manifestations beyond Grecian silhouettes in tighter, longer dresses, intricate accessories and hairstyles. Opinion-makers insisted on Hellenistic beauty as the only acceptable aesthetic principle. Magazines like Trup și Suflet permeated such depictions alongside social hygiene ideals until the mid-1930s, when strict moral censorship affected imaging, from photography to famous paintings.
Fig. 3: A flâneuse on Calea Victoriei. Note the man in the background stopping to look at her before crossing the street [the author’s personal collection].
Western observers acknowledged Bucharest’s paradoxes as being at the heart of the Romanian national construct and negotiating between progress and heritage. In his 1938 Roumanian Journey, British classicist Sacheverell Sitwell described Calea Victoriei as a scenic route connected to all of Bucharest’s perpetual modernization and insisted that its depictions should highlight personality, not monuments.84 Edith Nepean mentioned a perpetual widening of Calea Victoriei’s promenade space as pedestrian and automobile traffic advancements.85 Yet Sitwell believed such processes hurt Bucharest’s historical and cultural architectural legacy to a “point, before long, when improvement becomes spoliation.”86 Fashion reflected this visual reinvention project, but women were expected to be original, yet appropriate.87 The standards set for Romanian women as visual representations of Romania’s modernization remained strict despite ongoing financial and political distress. National replacements for costly import items, especially silks, failed to manifest, as France and Romania maintained a stable commercial flow. The French Commerce Office in its Romanian newsletter of May 1920 mentioned Fraissinet society maritime services from Marseille to the major Danube harbors, providing lucrative commercial exchanges.88 The same newsletter outlined the rules and regulations for French textile exports, as Romanian producers formed an association uniformizing production and commercialization.89
Traders were alarmed by the new import tax policies. In 1931, the Ministry of Finance organized public hearings to assess the evolution of industrialization and listen to suggestions, recounted in detail by Adevărul.90 Protectionist tax policies monopolized the discussion. Silk traders took the stand and blamed prohibitive prices for their dire situation, as local silk factories benefitted from exaggerated protection (Table 3). 1933 marked the culmination of protectionist tax policies as draconian efforts to curb import expenses. The new policies targeted fashion, beauty, and most raw product types. In January 1933, Monitorul Oficial detailed the new luxury tax types, divided into five categories (Table 5).91 The taxes did not produce the intended effects. As Alessandro Balestrino observed about the general phenomenon, such “corrective taxes” escalate the scope of the illegal fashion markets. While their implementation “induces those, who stay legal to consume efficiently,” it concomitantly “increases the number of those who go black, who continue to overconsume.” Named brands function as primary status markers. Amid exorbitant prices for genuine items, counterfeiting promised access to haute couture insignia or models by low-income consumers. Understanding the inevitability of copying, prominent Parisian haute couture houses imposed strict rules, chiefly for branding under commercial or copyright laws. According to Balestrino, Parisian houses allowed for legal design distribution worldwide without upsetting the regular clientele’s exclusivity by imposing a moratorium of a few months to a year.92
This was visible in interwar Romania. The focus on producing large quantities of minimally processed goods at low prices, industrial textile manufacturing did not meet Romanian consumer standards. This exacerbated dishonest practices, including a lucrative underground economy. High import taxes became a staple of Romania’s late-1930s textile trade with gargantuan import values compared to those for export. According to January 1936 financial data from Monitorul Oficial,93 the average export rate for 100 kg of untanned luxury fur, including Russian sable and chinchilla, was 60,000 lei,94 3,000 times its import value. The import taxing quota was at 18 percent for most luxury products; including the above-mentioned tanned and untanned leather types, what was deemed as raw “genuine luxury leather” (crocodile, snake, or seal), leather goods (women’s handbags, wallets, belts, and wristwatch bracelets) combined with “fine materials” mentioned as turtle shells, ivory, silver, gold, precious metals, fine and precious gemstones. The same percentage was applied for simple or dyed silk and silk products, including gloves, stockings, accessories, and laces if any item had more than 50 percent silk (Table 6). Industrialists disregarded Romania’s international reputation for quality and original manufacture, especially shoemaking.95 The situation worsened as imports for half-finished threads of cellulose or cotton continued unbridled.96
Romania’s economy was built on boosting traditional pre-war raw or semi-finished goods exports, adding crude oil to much costlier imports for finished or semi-finished products. Raw, usually foreign fabrics abounded throughout Bucharest, especially around Calea Victoriei. Difficulties in supplying and paying for cheaper American or Indian cotton led to purchasing higher-priced Egyptian cotton, most Spanish and Japanese trading connections having been lost.97 Prêt-à-porter became a viable solution. Larger businesses added ready-made items and personalization services. The Les Tissus A.G.B. luxury store on Calea Victoriei boasted the newest best silk and fabric options. Royal Shoe prided itself as a supplier for Romanian and Yugoslavian royal and princely courts and for “the best” theatres. In an April 1929 advertisement, A.G.B. announced imports from the most famous French houses to satisfy the high demand for the latest “Parisian” models.98
By the 1930s, artificial crêpe de Chine became an item of prime necessity, replacing cotton for several uses,99 along with fabrics, usually with French or exotic names. According to a 1931 advertisement, A.G.B. sold crêpe satin sequana, crêpe rodeo, crêpe triflis, crêpe banjo, crêpe danabas or crêpe antinea.100 High taxation and national protectionist policies harbored an unstable environment extended to individual fashion consumption. Romanian merchants understood that contracts with foreign distributors added exorbitant expenses to already steep taxes. Such cases were featured in Monitorul Oficial, which mentioned instances of unmet obligations or damage due to faulty packaging. Silk traders demanded logical tax reforms for common textiles that were taxed as luxury items and clear parameters to curtail fraudulent sales of artificial silk as crêpe de Chine.101 Counterfeit textiles presented as expensive genuine fabrics increased as the policies veered towards extreme protectionism. A.G.B. advertisements contained technical details, educating clients to check quality guarantee tags.102
The state’s industrialization project implied eliminating traditional systems, introducing professionalism in garment creation. Technical perfection was the expected norm to override the often-chaotic creative process deemed unprofessional. Such attempts extended legislative macro-level control, as General Ion Antonescu attempted to discipline the unruly and raucous Calea Victoriei with a short-lived one-way pedestrian traffic legislation.103 These phenomena were mirrored in technical manuals like Călăuza croitorului by Tailoring Academy director, D. Theodorescu, as compact examples of how such practices were encouraged by the highest authorities aiming to educate ethnic-Romanian specialists.104 It devoted three pages to reproductions painstakingly outlining even the slightest technical detail105 and nothing about original models. Its readers were likely small-business owners with proper conduct and professionalism, high technical skills, precision, and trustworthiness. Several tailoring and textile schools and academies opened in Lipscani, the less glamorous mercantile center adjacent to Calea Victoriei.

Fashion, consumerism, cityspace

Calea Victoriei’s name remains well known as a Bucharest landmark, albeit ambiguous in the specificity of reference. As Tudor Octavian observed, despite sentimental ties shared in some capacity by all Romanians, “few are prepared to define this interest,” and “many – if not the majority” could not estimate or “do not even take the trouble to find [out] to which victory the way is dedicated.”106 A connection could be created retroactively, as with any timeless, touristic Western urban spots.107 Calea Victoriei remained the center of Bucharest’s cultural and political life. Rosie G. Waldeck, in her narrative centered around the Athénée Palace Hotel, vividly described the case of the “Guardist” marches and their enthusiastic public reception, which, in her opinion, pushed a jealous Carol II to “liquidate the entire Guardist leadership.”108 To this day, Calea Victoriei remains the main parade artery serving any political or ideological interest. For post-1989 Bucharest inhabitants, however, as Octavian asserted, the name ceased to imply idolatry. He described a vague relationship to “some great national victory if not to a sum of victories, to the victory that Bucharest, a poor small town […] until two centuries ago, is on par with large municipalities today.”109 Interwar rhetoric continued deploring Bucharest’s lack of systematization. In the late 1930s, Golopenția claimed Bucharest was a “pronounced Eastern city in Europe,” but “the multiple Bucharests are on the path of a progress that can no longer be stopped.”110 The latter would receive a new meaning in communist Romania, which redefined the meaning of “progress.” As Octavian contended, Calea Victoriei’s quality as “a unique fact of implied urban personality” represented potential Bucharesters: “if we had been allowed to, if we had the means, if its builders had been clever enough” to use it as a quality standard. Bucharesters could have learned “to prize the first more” after “several ways of victory in The Capital.”111 Durandin identified an “affective,” instead of architectural, coherence in Bucharest’s ambiance even after 1989.112 Djuvara noted “something interesting” about interwar Bucharest as wholeheartedly and especially intellectually European around the Center, alongside “Constantinopolitan and Balkan” parts.113 The plural Bucharest(s) have hence coalesced into Elizabeth Wilson’s depiction of urban experience as a “huge experimental laboratory,”114 leading to Colonel Popescu-Lumină’s insight on an infinity of “worries, projects and municipal plans furiously winnowed and accomplished only at times but always partially.”115
Fig. 4: Three fashion types in interwar Bucharest with their gentlemen, possibly in Cișmigiu Park, including my great-grandmother, Adela Vodă (second from right) and her brother, Ștefan (Fănică, second from left) [the author’s personal collection].
The latter suggests modernization efforts began with the Romanian Kingdom and crystallized during Greater Romania. Despite a partial or compartmentalized development, Calea Victoriei functioned as a symbolic marker of how interwar Romania wished to appear to itself and its observers. At the peak of the financial crisis, Calea Victoriei appeared to be in total disagreement with the crisis. This Bucharest looked like a Hollywood film, with stylish men and women walking arm in arm.116 Mircea Damian viewed it as a genuine musical. He claimed he had not seen any pensive women or sad men, some were even whistling. Despite the upheavals suffered by businessmen and financial institutions, it remained unchanged, impressing foreign visitors with its glamourous, youthful, and jubilant women, and functioned as a calling card for Bucharest.117
Beyond Hollywood and Paris, Romania’s interwar women strove to maintain the ground won in earlier years amid overt anti-feminism and emancipationreluctant authorities. The modern city nurtured the development of fashion,118 an accessible but problematic avenue for women’s self-expression. Romania blended its exotic allure with its European heritage, with Calea Victoriei at the heart of tout Bucarest, a perpetual participant in momentous historical events.119 Local opinions were divided. Felix Aderca claimed Bucharest harbored an anti-urban spirit and Calea Victoriei was a typical provincial main street,120 whereas Matila Ghyka recalled Carol II’s Bucharest as endowed with all desirable comfort,121 and Waldeck claimed its fashionable hub emphasized its importance as Korso.122 For Mircea Damian, Calea Victoriei accommodated “gigantic numbers” of “beautiful, joyous, and happy” women,”123 in contrast to Olivia Manning’s Calea Victoriei, which was decked with frivolous women and aggressive beggars.124 Leigh White described its eclectic, rough familiarity that accommodated inexpensive merchandise for Western buyers,125 which was also mentioned by Waldeck.126 Calea Victoriei flourished despite and through Monitorul Oficial messaging interference, as seen, for instance, indirectly through increased taxes for fashion items.
This reinvention project was reflected with loyalty in women’s fashion and obligatory originality while observing strict rules and narrow paths.127 Concurrently, protectionist economic policies were implemented to curb unnecessary spending and Romania’s reliance on imports under the Romanianization project. Political distress complemented the inherent depersonalization and mechanization brought about by industrialism. This juxtaposition heightened the risk of forgetting history, while Romanian women timidly entered the historiographical center stage.128 Gender segregation still informed cityscaping. Globally, women’s growing visibility in the cityspace was interpreted as a threat and most repression and surveillance systems applied to them.129 Authority spaces remained predominantly inhabited by men, and the extension of women’s territory into the public sphere occurred in designated “safe” liminal zones, neither public nor private. These “women’s offices” accommodated social gatherings, shopping, and beauty services.130 In 1930s Bucharest, major commercial arteries like Calea Victoriei offered such spaces. And when placed against Aurel Voina’s “eugenic offices” for “applied racial hygiene,”131 a specificity of locale determined by gender, social, ethnic, or medical parameters receives darker nuances. Unlike the latter, women’s offices were primarily capitalist and consumerist.
Manning noted that shops were open 24 hours, and their windows crowded with high-quality products with “exotic trinkets.”132 Calea Victoriei’s Flâneuses found quality products for any event at reasonable prices at Femme Élégante, “the latest Parisian creations” at Aristide Spiegel’s Galeria Modernă, Tony Fischer’s Palatal Modelelor, Aurelia Andronescu’s Aida, or the surviving pre-war store La Pomul de Aur, founded in 1872 by Edgar Fuhn and inherited by his son Isidor. Self-identified “fashion houses” adapted Parisian department store names to Bucharest. These included Au Bonheur de Dames, a larger textile store’s satellite, Au Printemps de Bucarest, or Au Bon Marché. Among the few original fashion houses on Calea Victoriei, R. Roth’s Maison Suzanne boasted the obligatory exclusivity rules.
Elegance was no longer synonymous with high expenditure. The press directed the public’s consumerism and fashion predisposition through advertisements or partnerships. The journal Realitatea Ilustrată had both the budget and the national reach for this, as illustrated by an advertisement for the I Schőenfeld hat salons reproducing models from the latest Parisian fashion journals. Women should replace cosmetics with “magnificent” Schőenfeld hats, as true beauty was the target for an era harboring both the Great Depression and beauty pageants. This generated an “acute pilgrimage” to the hat store, pioneered by Magda Demetrescu, Miss Romania 1929, sixth runner up for Miss Universe 1929 in Galveston, Texas.133 In January 1931, the fashion and ready-made clothes store Au Goût Parisien and Realitatea Ilustrată organized a relevant contest. The contest’s purpose was to reward women who could create the most elegant and fashionable outfits inexpensively. A specialized jury from the fashion house judged the homemade outfits against all raw materials receipts. The store provided the first prize, a black lace dress and an ostrich feather folding fan worth 3,000 lei134 for the “most charming,” lowest-priced outfit. The cheapest and “most beautiful” promenade or afternoon dress won the second prize, five meters of superior quality crêpe de Chine. The third prize offered three meters of brown wool fabric for a simple dress of “great taste.” Next to an essay about the Great Depression, an article in Realitatea Ilustrată claimed that it presented the first such event in Romania.135
Mechanization brought quicker and cheaper visual representations. By the 1930s, Polyfoto was a regularly advertised studio featured in glossy magazines, a Polyfoto technique system agency, patented by the London-based homonymous company.136 Throughout their 1938 advertisements, they offered their services for photography sessions in various locations around Bucharest. Those who could not afford a 48-photo set for 100 lei would still have their pictures taken in less glamorous settings but lavishly posed.137 Such practices demonstrate fashion’s inherent connection to celebrity culture. Indeed, by the 1930s, Hollywood glamour became a close contender to Parisian elegance and exclusivity, especially for the urban middle classes. Movie stars were groomed to fit modern stereotypes, as post-nineteenth-century cityspace development nurtured fashion beyond elite circles.138
Interwar Bucharest mirrored Romania’s hybrid identity as a genuine heterotopia,139 found here and there, and neither concomitantly.140 This adds to the city’s character as a border space where one can observe or engage with the “Other,”141 granting it a cosmopolitan aura.142 Le Moment, Bucharest’s Frenchlanguage daily, was captioned as an illustrated newspaper for political, economic, and social news presented in exquisite detail and with flair. The newspaper uncovered clues about other spaces of freedom for women, apart from the typical Calea Victoriei flâneuses. Le Moment frequently described parties at the most fashionable clubs, including the Jockey Club, Country Club, Automobile Club, and Aéro Club Royal, or events described as thé-bridge, soirées dansantes, receptions, dinners, conferences, operas, plays, garden or cocktail parties. The women, presented by name, or their outfits, were from the high society or parade mannequins. Le Moment presented a Bucharest divorced from financial distress on its social pages, where abundance and luxury reigned. While not entirely fictional, this Bucharest emphasized positive representations of Calea Victoriei, glossing over less-flattering realities. The multiple interwar Bucharests each provided something for local and foreign observers by juxtaposing high street fashion with draconian legislation. Calea Victoriei as a symbolic illustration of Romania’s pursuit of modernity does not fit the “and yet” category as its chaotic and rebellious character implied an “either/or” pairing of love and hate. Because of these complexities, Calea Victoriei and the “various” Bucharests continued to garner interest and necessitate a wider area of insight, such as including middleclass women’s fashion.
Interwar Bucharest’s “Little Paris” represented complex fluid spaces, blending free thought and movement with authoritarian state intervention and increasing extreme right-wing manifestations. These two extremes are illustrated by the expansive and progressive Calea Victoriei set against the contractive and repressive Monitorul Oficial, as physical and symbolic markers of Romania’s modernity. They belonged to the pluralized Bucharests mirroring modernity’s flexible mapping and interactions. Interwar Bucharesters constantly moved and negotiated along the Calea Victoriei–Monitorul Oficial spectrum. In this sense, their flânerie occurred in urban locations and within the emancipation– authoritarianism dichotomy. The 1930s represent a crucial decade for interwar Romanian women, as an era of continual struggle for their assertion in a climate of growing tension and militant right-wing movements under King Carol II’s royal dictatorship. In its complexity ranging from utilitarian, capitalist, to artistic connotations, fashion offers a panoramic perspective over interwar Romania, opening a largely unexplored main topic in fashion studies. Bucharest’s vivacious flâneuse trajectories, fashioned on and between Calea Victoriei and Monitorul Oficial, provide valuable clues about forgotten or neglected aspects of Bucharest at the heart of interwar Romania’s psyche. The research into Romania women’s fashion in interwar Bucharest, particularly on the expansion– contraction spectrum, offers a new perspective on Romanian gender history and a valid reference to potentially tackle current democracy–autocracy issues echoing interwar phenomena in Romania. It thus provides an original approach with new knowledge and frameworks amid a resurgence of right-wing discourse eerily reminiscent of the darkest Monitorul Oficial symbolic extremities.


Table 1: Evolution of textile factories and their employees in 1930s Romania. Biblioteca monetară, economică și financiară, “România. Bumbacul – Lâna – Mătasea naturală – Fibrele textile sintetice – Fibrele textile liberiene (inul, cânepa, iuta) – Alte fibre textile,” in Contribuțiuni la problema materiilor prime (București: Tiparul Românesc, 1940), 17–18.
Textile factories517645
Table 2: Investments and profit in the textile industry, 1930 compared to 1939, values in interwar lei and USD, converted to current RON and USD, full rounded. Biblioteca monetară, economică și financiară, “România,” 17–18.
Invested CapitalProfit
Table 3: Costs for importing one kilogram of crêpe de Chine from Lyon to Romania in 1931 lei and USD, converted to current RON and USD, rounded to two decimals. Base figures detailed in L. Petea, “Regimul de import al țesăturilor de mătase. Punctul de vedere al comercianților,” Adevărul, no. 44/14702 (3 December 1931): 4.
1 kg crêpe de Chine1931 Lei1931 USDs2022 RON2022 USDs
Lyon base price134.2 (20 Francs)0.869.2415.13
Custom duties2,30013.71185.86259.13
Luxury tax4502.9251.0154.85
Transport, customs clearance200.18.651.89
Table 4: Average price evolution for raw materials, rounded to the closest decimal. 1939* refers to Bucharest. The highest values are bolded in each column. Interwar lei values from Institutul Central de Statistică, Anuarul statistic al României 1937 și 1939 / Annuaire Statistique de la Roumanie 1937 et 1938 (Bucharest: Institutul de arte grafice “Eminescu,”1939), converted to USD and 2022 RON and USD.
1 mFabric
Table 5: Taxation categories from the 1933 luxury tax reform relevant to fashion. Carol II al României, “Monitorul Oficial. Partea III-a. Desbaterile Parlamentare,” Monitorul Oficial al Regatului României, no. III/17 (13 January 1933): 683–799.
16.5any item of or combined with exotic materials of animal origin, including furs, feathers, leather, bones, and wool; pure silk weighing between 20 to 200 grams per square meter or containing more than 50% silk, including velvety or toweling silk materials, gloves, stockings, ribbons, strings, buttons, Brandenburgs, epaulets, aiguillettes, motifs, lace and any other accessories of/including silk
any lace of/with vegetal textiles in all sizes and quantities, especially if combined with silk
any type of headwear, excluding military hats, including women’s hats of/with silk, adding flowers, feathers, etc.; ornamental objects, especially metal and coated in gold, silver, or precious stones
11all items of or with common but expensive furs, leathers, bones, or feathers, including gloves, any type of clothing, footwear
freshly picked plants or flowers
all plush, velvety cotton and velvet fabrics
all types and materials of/containing tulle ornamental pieces, beads, or other accessories containing natural ornamental stones, glass, anything coated in silver or gold and containing bronze, nickel, aluminum, white, or any other types of metal
2.5livestock skins, any type of tanned skin, for gloves, belts, or footwear; any type of footwear of/with tanned skin; products of/with toweling, common wool, feathers or bones, adding trimmings except silk, natural common wool, or recycled wool gloves, shawls, ribbons, strings, buttons, simple undecorated felt hats or with common and cheap accessories, of/with the above-mentioned materials, tows, and silk thread prepared for retail, or animal hair except pig, horse, bovine, including unprocessed human hair
fabrics, buttons, ribbons or strings of/with raw or processed hemp, linen, jute, cotton, raffia, wadding or other common plant textiles, artificial silk, gauze, tulle, linoleum, wood or cork
any sewn or woven strips for straw hats, single yarn, sewn strips or any other common material, straw or shavings cloches for women’s hats without ribbons or linings or with one ribbon, like for men’s hats
any type of simple crotchet, hairpin, braiding needle, needle pin, stitch, buckle used for garments
special chemical substances used in the textile industry
1horse or bovine hair
simple hemp, linen, ramie, jute or other vegetal fibers, any recycled fabrics
common, raw pebbles, any type of magnesite or dolomite rocks, zinc, aluminum, or old copper wastes
Untaxedall basic and common materials, from livestock and common vegetables to ores
Table 6: Selected 1936 taxes for luxury fur, leather, and textiles in lei and USD, converted to 2022 RON and USD, full rounded. Carol II al României, “Monitorul Oficial. Partea I. Desbaterile Parlamentare,” Monitorul Oficial al Regatului României III, no. 17 (12 January 1936): 353–67.
ItemTypeAverage Import Value
Luxury furs, 100 kgTanned180,000,0001,324,016106,361,43125,641,618
Genuine luxury leatherRaw400,0002,942236,33856,976
Leather goodsSimpleProduct value + 40%
Combined*Product value + 60%
1 kg silk with 200 g/m2Simple2,200161,285310
Silk productsGloves7,000524,9221,076
Accessories Product value + 10%


Winifred Gordon, A Woman in the Balkans (London: T. Nelson, 1918), 140.
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Whitney Chadwick and Tirza True Latimer, “Becoming Modern: Gender and Sexual Identity After World War I,” in The Modern Woman Revisited: Paris Between the Wars, eds Whitney Chadwick and Tirza True Latimer (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 3.
Romania’s Official Gazette, published since 1832.
The Romanian Kingdom, “Desbaterile senatului,” Monitorul Oficial, Desbaterile Parlamentare, no. 17 (13 January 1933): 398–9.
Virgil Madgearu, “Expunere de motive,” Monitorul Oficial, Desbaterile Parlamentare, no. 17 (13 January 1933): 399.
Madgearu, “Expunere de motive,” 400.
Madgearu, “Expunere de motive,” 400–1.
Madgearu, “Expunere de motive,” 402.
Around $18,908,917, RON 86,532,877 at time of writing.
Elizabeth Castaldo Lundén, “Exploring Fashion as Communication: The Search for a New Fashion History against the Grain,” Popular Communication, 18, no. 4 (2020): 252,
Maria Bucur, “From Invisibility to Marginality: Women’s History in Romania,” Women’s History Review, 27, no. 1 (January 2, 2018): 50–1,
Lundén, “Exploring Fashion as Communication,” 251.
See Elizabeth Wilson, Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity, 2nd ed. (London: I. B. Tauris, 2010).
See Elizabeth Wilson, The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women (London: Virago Press, 1991).
See Elizabeth Wissinger, This Year’s Model: Fashion, Media, and the Making of Glamour (New York, London: New York University Press, 2015).
See Barbara Vinken, Fashion Zeitgeist: Trends and Cycles in the Fashion System, transl. Mark Hewson (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2005).
See Julie Summers, Fashion on the Ration: Style in the Second World War (London: Profile Books, 2015).
See Djurdja Bartlett (ed), Fashion and Politics (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2019).
See Justine De Young (ed), Fashion in European Art: Dress and Identity, Politics and the Body, 1775–1925 (London: I. B. Tauris, 2017).
See Gilles Lipovetsky, The Empire of Fashion: Dressing Modern Democracy, transl. Catherine Porter (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).
See Lou Taylor and Marie McLoughlin (eds), Paris Fashion and World War Two: Global Diffusion and Nazi Control (London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2020).
See Maria Bucur and Mihaela Miroiu, Birth of Democratic Citizenship: Women and Power in Modern Romania (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018).
See Maria Bucur, Eugenics and Modernization in Interwar Romania (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002).
See Cristina A. Bejan, Intellectuals and Fascism in Interwar Romania: The Criterion Association (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019),
Marius Turda, “Controlling the National Body: Ideas of Racial Purification in Romania, 1918–1944,” in Health, Hygiene and Eugenics in Southeastern Europe to 1945, eds Marius Turda, Christian Promitzer, and Sevasti Trubeta (Budapest and New York: CEU Press, 2011), 325–50.
See Luminița Machedon and Ernie Schoffham, Romanian Modernism: The Architecture of Bucharest, 1920–1940 (Cambridge, MA, London: MIT Press, 1999).
Lisa R. Lattuca, “Creating Interdisciplinarity: Grounded Definitions from College and University Faculty,” History of Intellectual Culture, 3, no. 1 (2003): 5–6.
The abstract, cultural and social city, as seen in Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (London and New York: Verso, 2000), 82.
The panoramic city and its surroundings, as seen in Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 33.
Mary Louise Roberts, “Making the Modern Girl French: From New Woman to Éclaireuse,” in The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization, eds Alys Eve Weinbaum et al. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 78–9.
Maria Bucur, “In Praise of Wellborn Mothers: On Eugenicist Gender Roles in Interwar Romania,” East European Politics and Societies, 9, no. 1 (1995): 123–42.
Alys Eve Weinbaum et al. (eds), The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008).
Tiffany Webber, “The Modern Era: 1910–1960,” in The Fashion Reader, eds Linda Welters and Abby Lillethun (Oxford: Berg, 2014), 91.
First known as Ulița Mare or Drumul Brașovului, it became Podul Mogoșoaiei in 1692 and received its current name in 1878, celebrating Romania’s victory in the Independence War against the Ottoman Empire. Tudor Octavian, “Victories’ Avenue,” in Bucureştiul interbelic – Calea Victoriei / Interbellum Bucharest – Victoria Avenue, eds Tudor Octavian and Mihai Petru Georgescu (București: Noi Media Print, 2002), 4.
Neagu Djuvara, “Amintiri din anii ‘20, impresii din anii ‘90,” in Bucureştiul meu, ed. Gabriela Tabacu (București: Humanitas, 2016), 314.
John Armitage and Joanne Roberts, “Critical Luxury Studies: Defining a Field,” in Critical Luxury Studies, eds John Armitage and Joanne Roberts (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016), 4.
Djurdja Bartlett, “Can Fashion Be Defended?” in Fashion and Politics, ed. Djurdja Bartlett (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2019), 32.
Bartlett, “Can Fashion Be Defended?” 17.
Bartlett, “Can Fashion Be Defended?” 27.
Webber, “The Modern Era,” 90.
Matei Călinescu, Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 13.
Anton Golopenția, “București – înfățișare socială,” in Între proiecții urbanistice și sărăcie letargică: Bucureștiul arhitecților, sociologilor și al medicilor, ed. Zoltán Rostás (București: Vremea, 2015), 16–17.
Sophie Kurkdjian, “Paris as the Capital of Fashion, 1858–1939: An Inquiry,” Fashion Theory, 24, no. 3 (2020): 378–9,
Graziella Doicescu, Captivantul București interbelic: Tablete (București: Vremea, 2008), 123.
Armitage and Roberts, “Critical Luxury Studies,” 4.
Penelope Francks, “Was Fashion a European Invention? The Kimono and Economic Development in Japan,” Fashion Theory 19, no. 3 (2015): 332,
Barnard, “Fashion as Communication Revisited,” 262–3.
Barnard “Fashion as Communication Revisited,” 268–9.
Christopher Breward, “Fashion,” Textile History, 50, no. 2 (2019): 207,
Cezar Petrescu, Calea Victoriei, ed. Teodora Dumitru (București: Litera, 2009), 236–7.
Edith Nepean, Romance and Realism in the Near East (London: Stanley Paul & Co, 1934), 121.
Agnès Rocamora and Alistair O’Neill, “Fashioning the Street: Images of the Street in the Fashion Media,” in Fashion as Photograph: Viewing and Reviewing Images of Fashion, ed. Eugénie Shinkle (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2008), 185.
Lundén, “Exploring Fashion as Communication,” 252.
Spiro Kostof, The City Assembled (London: Thames & Hudson, 1992), 194; Rocamora and O’Neill, “Fashioning the Street,” 189.
Joanne Entwistle, The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress and Modern Social Theory (Cambridge and Maiden, MA: Polity Press, 2000), 208.
“Calea Victoriei,” 11.
Mike Featherstone, “The Object and Art of Luxury Consumption,” in Critical Luxury Studies, eds John Armitage and Joanne Roberts (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016), 109.
Michel de Certeau, “Walking in the City,” in The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Simon During, transl. Steven Rendall (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), 157–8.
Alexandru Nora, Femeia ne e stăpână. Adulter sau nu? (București: Timpul, 1936), 119.
Armitage and Roberts, “Critical Luxury Studies,” 2–3.
Rebecca Arnold, Fashion, Desire, and Anxiety: Image and Morality in the 20th Century (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001).
Certeau, “Walking in the City,” 161.
Around RON 1,150,067,313, $251,309,423 today.
Featherstone, “The Object and Art of Luxury Consumption,” 108.
Adrian-Silvan Ionescu, Modă și societate urbană (București: Paideia, 2006), 447.
David Gilbert, “From Paris to Shanghai: The Changing Geographies of Fashion’s World Cities,” in Fashion’s World Cities, eds Christopher Breward and David Gilbert (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2006), 4–5.
Wilson, Adorned in Dreams, vii.
Anne Hollander, Seeing through Clothes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 312.
Caroline Evans, “Multiple, Movement, Model, Mode: The Mannequin Parade 1900–1929,” in Fashion and Modernity, eds Christopher Breward and Caroline Evans (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2005), 128–30.
R. Vior, Fii frumoasă doamnă (București: Cartea Românească, 1938), 11.
Doicescu, Captivantul București interbelic.
See Lelia Zamani, Oameni și locuri din vechiul București (București: Vremea, 2008).
Petrescu, Calea Victoriei, 238.
“Viața Capitalei,” Adevărul, 50, no. 16217 (1936): 6.
Bartlett, “Can Fashion Be Defended?” 28.
Agnès Rocamora, “Paris, Capitale de La Mode: Representing the Fashion City in the Media,” in Fashion’s World Cities, eds Christopher Breward and David Gilbert (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2006), 48–50.
Dušan I. Bjelić, “Introduction: Blowing Up the ‘Bridge,’” in Balkan as Metaphor: Between Globalization and Fragmentation, eds Dušan I. Bjelić and Obrad Savić (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 3.
Frédéric Godart, “The Power Structure of the Fashion Industry: Fashion Capitals, Globalization and Creativity,” International Journal of Fashion Studies, 1, no. 1 (2014): 50,
Kurkdjian, “Paris as the Capital of Fashion,” 373.
Catherine Durandin, București. Amintiri și plimbări, ed. Magda Cârneci, transl. Horia Mihail Vasilescu (București: Paralela 45, 2004), 139–40.
N. I. Popescu-Lumină, Bucureştii din trecut şi de astăzi (București: Fundația Culturală “Gheorghe Marin Speteanu,” 2007), 516.
Sacheverell Sitwell, Roumanian Journey (London: BT Batsford, 1938), 36.
Nepean, Romance and Realism in the Near East, 121.
Sitwell, Roumanian Journey, 36.
Vior, Fii frumoasă doamnă; Doicescu, Captivantul București interbelic, 64; X.X.X., “Între 11 și 1;” Gheorghe Crutzescu, Podul Mogoşoaei: povestea unei străzi, ed. Virgiliu Z. Teodorescu (București: Biblioteca Bucureştilor, 2011), 120.
“Serviciile maritime între Franța și porturile Dunărei,” Bulletin d’información de l’office commercial français en Roumanie, no. 8 (1920): 25.
“Serviciile maritime,” 27.
L. Petea, “Regimul de import al țesăturilor de mătase. Punctul de vedere al comercianților,” Adevărul, no. 44/14702 (1931): 4.
Carol II al României, “Monitorul Oficial. Partea a III-a. Desbaterile Parlamentare,” Monitorul Oficial al Regatului României III (13 January 1933): 711–27.
Alessandro Balestrino, “Large Taxes, Status Goods, and Piracy,” FinanzArchiv / Public Finance Analysis, 70, no. 1 (2014): 113.
Carol II al României, “Monitorul Oficial. Partea I. Desbaterile Parlamentare,” Monitorul Oficial al Regatului României, no. 10 (1936): 353–67.
Around RON 41,743, $9,122 today.
Doicescu, Captivantul București interbelic, 124.
Victor Axenciuc, Monedă – Credit – Comerț – Finanțe Publice, vol.3, Evoluția economică a României. Cercetări statistico-istorice 1859–1947 (București: Editura Academiei Române, 2000), 382.
Biblioteca monetară, economică și financiară, “România. Bumbacul - Lâna - Mătasea Naturală - Fibrele Textile Sintetice - Fibrele Textile Liberiene (Inul, Cânepa, Iuta) - Alte Fibre Textile,” in Contribuțiuni La Problema Materiilor Prime, 5 (1940), 127.
Realitatea Ilustrată III, no. 5 (1929): 2.
Petea, “Regimul de import.”
Les Tissus A.G.B. Ad,” Adevărul, 44, no. 14648 (1931): 2.
Petea, “Regimul de import.”
“Les Tissus A.G.B. Ad,” 2.
A. Ofrim, Străzi vechi din Bucureştiul de azi (Bucharest: Humanitas, 2011), 290.
I. Năstasă-Matei, Educație, politică și propagandă. Studenți români în Germania nazistă (Cluj-Napoca: Eikon and Școala Ardeleană, 2016), 50–1.
D. Theodorescu, Călăuza Croitorului (București: Tiparul Academic, 1935), 100–2.
Octavian, “Victories’ Avenue.”
Elizabeth Wilson, “Urbane Fashion,” in Fashion’s World Cities, eds Christopher Breward and David Gilbert (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2006), 36.
Rosie Goldschmidt Waldeck, Athénée Palace Bucharest: Hitler’s “New Order” Comes to Rumania (London: Constable, 1943), 21.
Octavian, “Victories’ Avenue.”
Golopenția, “București,” 17.
Octavian, “Victories’ Avenue.”
Durandin, București, 139.
Djuvara, “Amintiri din anii ‘20,” 308–9.
Wilson, “Urbane Fashion,” 34.
Popescu-Lumină, Bucureştii din trecut şi de astăzi, 518.
Doicescu, Captivantul București Interbelic, 123.
Mircea Damian, București (București: Fundația pentru Literatură și Artă “Regele Carol II,” 1935), 16.
Wilson, “Urbane Fashion,” 33.
“Calea Victoriei,” 11.
Felix Aderca, “București. Parisul balcanilor - Când vom avea o Capitală?” Realitatea Ilustrată, VIII, no. 369 (1934): 3.
Matila Ghyka, Curcubeie, transl. Georgeta Filitti (Iaşi, București: Polirom, 2014), 412.
Waldeck, Athénée Palace, 7.
Damian, București, 15.
Olivia Manning, The Balkan Trilogy: The Great Fortune. The Spoilt City. Friends and Heroes, vol. I–III, Fortune of War (London: Penguin Books, 1987).
Leigh White, The Long Balkan Night (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944), 54–5.
Waldeck, Athénée Palace, 249.
See Vior, Fii frumoasă doamnă.
Bucur, “From Invisibility to Marginality,” 53.
Wilson, Sphinx in the City, 14–15.
Ulf Hannerz, “Cosmopolitans and Locals in World Culture,” in Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity, Theory, Culture & Society, ed. Mike Featherstone (London: Sage, 1995), 237–8.
Aurel Voina, “Oficiul eugenic,” Buletin eugenic și biopolitic, VII, nos. 8–10 (1936): 255–6.
Manning, The Balkan Trilogy, 116.
I Schőenfeld Ads,” (1929).
Around RON 1,558, $340 today.
Realitatea Ilustrată V, no. 208 (1931): 12.
“Old Photographs – Cambridgeshire Photographers – Pi – Po,” Fading Images (15 March 2018),, accessed 24 September 2018.
Around 65 RON, $14 today.
Elizabeth Wilson, “Urbane Fashion,” 33.
Coined by Michel Foucault, a distinct inner world connected to but also upsetting its larger, surrounding space.
Lucian Boia, History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2001), 12–13.
Roland Barthes, The Fashion System, transl. Matthew Ward and Richard Howard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 251; A. Rocamora, Fashioning the City: Paris, Fashion and the Media (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2009), 186.
Hannerz, “Cosmopolitans and Locals in World Culture,” 238.

Information & Authors


Published In

Journal of Romanian Studies
Volume 5Number 11 April 2023
Pages: 27 - 54


Published in print: 1 April 2023
Published online: 25 April 2023


  1. women’s fashion
  2. interwar Bucharest
  3. Monitorul Oficial
  4. Calea Victoriei
  5. modernity



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