Clothing Industry

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Clothing Industry


the branch of light industry that produces clothing and other sewn goods for household and industrial purposes from woven and knitted fabrics; artificial and natural leather and fur; and double- and triple-layered materials of new design. It also produces various finishing materials and accessories and components. In the USSR the clothing industry is the largest industrial branch producing consumer goods, with an average annual output valued at more than 20 billion rubles.

In prerevolutionary Russia, the manufacture of clothing was a cottage industry, and there were no garment factories. In large cities craftsmen served the upper classes and the clergy, and commercial firms extensively employed home workers, including those who lived in rural areas. Most of the population wore homespun clothing. Only just before World War I were the first clothing shops established; they had only very simple equipment—hand-driven sewing machines, irons, and needles.

After the October Revolution of 1917, the Department of Ready-made Clothing and Underwear was established at the Central Textile Trust (Tsentrotekstil) in 1918; in April 1920 the Main Committee of the Clothing Industry was formed under the Supreme Council on the National Economy. The primary task of the committee was to industrialize the sector by centralized production planning. The clothing industry began developing rapidly as the result of new construction and the technical reequipping and organization of production-line manufacturing. The creation of domestic machine building for the clothing industry was a decisive step. By 1930, 32,000 general-purpose industrial machines and 6,500 specialized machines manufactured by the Podol’sk Machine Plant had been installed in the industry’s enterprises. Between 1921 and 1930 the output of garments increased by a factor of 4.3. In 1930 the Scientific Research Institute of the Clothing Industry was founded in Moscow.

In 1940 the clothing industry had 210 large and medium-size enterprises whose operation was scientifically structured in the areas of technology, organization of labor and production, and planning and management. During World War II, one-third of the country’s clothing factories were completely destroyed. The clothing industry regained its prewar level in 1950, and 30 percent of the industrial equipment was modernized.

Qualitative changes took place in the industry’s technological equipment in the period 1951–55. The use of specialized and semiautomatic machines increased, and their number rose to 18,700 units; the number of presses in use totaled 3,800. Large-scale enterprises were built in Khabarovsk, Komsomol’sk-na-Amure, Angarsk, Ashkhabad, and Karaganda.

Technological reequipping of the industry has been particularly intensive in the 1960’s and 1970’s, primarily through extensive introduction of physicochemical methods of processing, high-efficiency semiautomatic equipment, specialized machinery, and presses for moisture and heat treatment of garments. The use of specialized and semiautomatic machines increased by a factor of more than 5 between 1955 and 1975, and the use of presses for moisture and heat treatment more than tripled.

New forms of production-line manufacturing developed in the 1960’s: multifashion, sectional production lines, aggregate and group production lines, start-to-finish production lines, production line factories, and integrated mechanized production lines. The widespread introduction of integrated mechanized production lines in the clothing industry (806 such lines had been installed by July 1, 1977) made it possible to achieve a significant increase in the level of mechanization and to reduce the percentage of manual labor required. Labor productivity increased 40–50 percent.

The level of specialization and concentration in the clothing industry is rising. The proportion of specialized enterprises was 29.4 percent in 1966, 46.4 percent in 1968, 68.0 percent in 1970, and 74.0 percent in 1972. Enterprises with 300 or more employees today produce 87.7 percent of the total volume of output; those with less than 300 employees produce 12.3 percent.

High rates of development have been achieved in the clothing industry by implementing organizational and technical measures. Thus, the average annual growth rate of production was 12.2 percent in the period 1966–70 and 3.5 percent in the period 1971–75; the average annual growth rates for labor productivity for the same periods were 8.0 percent and 3.9 percent.

The volume of gross output rose 8 percent between 1960 and 1965; it had risen 90 percent in 1970 and 140 percent in 1975. Between 1965 and 1976, the production growth rates for most important garments have also been high: for coats and cloaks, 125 percent; suits, 127 percent; dresses, 205 percent; shirts, 126 percent; and trousers, 135 percent.

Table 1. Soviet production of garments in the highest quality category
1In enterprise wholesale prices for July 1, 1967
Garments in highest quality category     
million rubles1 ...............69.377.0275.5432.3
million items ...............1.84.61117.4
Number of models in highest quality category ...............3495091,1842,1213,026
Number of enterprises manufacturing garments in highest quality category ...............87102198335365

Compared with 1960 figures, the number of employees in the clothing industry was 1.2 times higher in 1965, 1.5 times higher in 1970, and 1.6 times higher in 1975.

Efforts are being made in the industry to improve the quality and range of production (see Table 1).

In 1967 certain Moscow and Leningrad garment enterprises became the first to certify their products with the state seal of quality in the highest quality category. In 1976 the production volume of garments so certified had increased by a factor of 9.5 compared with 1972. In the period 1973–76, production totaled 77.4 million garments of improved quality and range (identified by the letter “N”), valued at 1.8 billion rubles.

Among the leading enterprises of the clothing industry are the Klara Zetkin Experimental-Technical Garment Factory of the Central Scientific Research Institute of the Clothing Industry and the 40th Anniversary of the All-Union Komsomol Tiraspol’ Garment Factory. Leading production associations include Bol’shevichka, Saliut, Moskva, Smena, and Start in Moscow; Bol’shevichka, Pervomaiskaia zaria, Volodarskii Rassvet, and Vesna in Leningrad; and Rigas Apgerbs in Riga. The Znamia In-dustrializatsii Garment Factory in Vitebsk and the Chimkent Garment Factory are also major enterprises.

In the other socialist countries, the clothing industry is most highly developed in the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia. Intensive development of the industry in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and Rumania began only in the mid-1960’s. The technological level of the clothing industry in these countries makes it possible to maintain high rates of development and steadily improve the quality of products. The largest enterprises are the garment associations in Prostějov and Trenčín (Czechoslovakia), the Fortschritt (Berlin, German Democratic Republic), Vitosha (Sophia, Bulgaria), and the Red October and 1 May garment factories (Budapest, Hungary), the Cora Garment Factory (Warsaw, Poland), and the garment factory in the city of Focsani, Rumania.

Among the industrially developed capitalist countries, the most highly developed clothing industries are found in the USA, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Great Britain, and Japan. A significant decline in the clothing industry can be observed in most of them. The most important garment manufacturers include the following: Levi Strauss and Company and Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation (USA), Lebole and Facis (Italy), B. und A. Becker GmbH and Nikolaus Boll Fabrik Modischer Anzüge GmbH, a factory that makes stylish suits (Federal Republic of Germany), Vestra-Union Manufacture de Vête-ments and Vêtements Armand Thièry Ainé (France), Arsa Trading Company Ltd. and Debretta Ltd. (Great Britain), and Teijin Ltd. and Wako Koeki Company Ltd. (Japan).


Popkov, V. I., and V. P. Sergiev. Organizatsiia proizvodstva na shveinom predpriiatii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1960.
Popkov, V. I. Rabota nepreryvynm potokom v shveinoi promyshlennosti. Moscow, 1968.
Kotetkin, P. P. Tekhnicheskii uroven’ shveinoi promyshlennosti SSSR i zarubezhnykh stran. Moscow, 1969.
Kolesnikov, P. A. Rezervy rosta proizvoditel’nosti truda napredpriiatiiakh shveinoi promyshlennosti. Moscow, 1969.
Maksimov, P. I. “Zadacha shveinoi promyshlennosti v deviatoi piatiletke.” Shveinaia promyshlennost’, 1973, no. 2.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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