For citizens of this country the best-known setting at the American National Exhibition in Moscow is probably the kitchen where Khrushchev and Nixon held one of their livelier debates. But for hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens who have been attending the fair in person the place to remember may well be instead an open stage in a wooded area of Sokolniki Park where, three times daily, a cast of mostly nonprofessional models demonstrates how Americans dress for the kind of lives they lead.
One scene of the 30-minute fashion show depicts Americans at play. Although the clothes worn in it are news to Russians, they are simply typical of the wide, imaginative range of contemporary American sportswear that appears in this magazine almost any week. They include, in fact, many of the clothes shown at this year's SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Design Awards Dinner (SI, June 22). For after Eleanor Lambert, the Chairman of the Selections Committee for the exhibition fashions, saw them there, she asked our Sporting Look department to select the sportswear for the Moscow show. It was a distinct pleasure.
The result seems to be a pleasure too for the Russians—to judge from the accompanying snapshot. Taken by Eleanor Montville of our Promotion Department, who assisted Miss Lambert at the exhibition, it catches a fragment of one of the crowds, which average 3,000 for each fashion show.
Just back from Moscow, Miss Montville told me of the show's drawing power. Once inside the grounds, for instance, the Russians do not mind holding their place for the next performance by standing for as long as 2½ hours.
August 30, 1959
But tickets for the exhibition itself are hard to come by, and many Russians mill hopefully outside the high fence surrounding it. Originally a canvas drop covered that part which passes near the fashion stage. What milled on its other side could best be called a Soviet knothole gang. Soviet officials finally gave up; the canvas came down. And now ticketless Russians who may never get to see the American kitchen at least are enjoying the Sporting Look.
"One sight poignantly frequent at the show," Eleanor Montville says, "is that of young Russian girls in the audience making rough sketches of the garments. At home they'll try to re-create what they've copied. Even if it's still hard for Russians to believe that these clothes are a normal part of American life, I'm pretty sure some of these clothes are going to be a little part of Soviet life."