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Design and Material Culture

Krystyna Spark

Krystyna graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in art history and film studies. Her interest in the history of fashion led her to the V&A/RCA History of Design MA, where her research explored the relationship between fashion in Communist Poland and the West.

While enrolled on the History of Design MA Krystyna volunteered in the V&A’s furniture archives at Blythe House and completed a summer internship at the Polish edition of ELLE magazine. She has contributed articles on the subjects of fashion history, film and art to various online publications in Poland and is part of the editorial team of SZAJN – an artsy online magazine targeted towards young women.

Krystyna has also supported and advised a private fashion collector in the purchasing of vintage garments at auction. She continues to share her passion for fashion history with the public through a thriving, subject-focused Instagram account.

Having attended art classes throughout most of her childhood, Krystyna hopes to combine her practical skills with the knowledge gained on the History of Design MA, and will begin working part-time from September 2021 as a primary school art teacher. She is based in Warsaw, Poland.

Title image: Świat Mody no.68, 1966, Ty i Ja no.9 (89), 1967, ELLE (French edition) no.304, 24 September 1951. All magazines owned by Krystyna Spark.

Portrait photo by Karolina Jackowska

Krystyna completed her dissertation on the V&A/RCA History of Design MA Programme in April 2021. The study portrayed how information about current trends in dress was transmitted between Poland and the West throughout the 1960s. Contemporary printed magazines as well as oral testimonies were used as the main primary sources, which gave the research a unique, at times personal, character.

Dissertation Title: "Barbara Hoff’s Fashion Column: Examining the Connection Between Fashion in Communist Poland and the West, 1954 – 1974"

Word Count: 18,102 words 


The influence of England’s capital was felt across the globe, yet behind the Iron Curtain admitting this was problematic. Through the lens of fashion this dissertation attempts to portray how information about current trends in dress were transmitted between Poland and the West throughout the 1960s.

Using contemporary printed magazines as main primary sources and, in particular, Polish designer Barbara Hoff’s fashion column written for Przekrój magazine as a case study, this dissertation illustrates the way in which public desire for Western fashion trends was swayed and manipulated by Poland’s Communist government. The research draws attention to similarities between the clothing designed in Poland and that outside of the confines of a centrally steered economy. Noticing these connections raises the question of design innovation and brings to the forefront Polish designers whose work was not previously placed on an equal level to those from the West.

A comparison of popular press to internal trade documentation reveals the potential of Poland’s fashion industry and argues that it was the fault of the regime that it was not fully realised. These limitations of surroundings, in which fashion designers working in Poland during the 1960s operated, are perceived by the author not as factors necessarily hindering their creative output, but rather, as circumstances which allowed for a different kind of creativity. In conclusion, this dissertation argues, the intertwined structure of governmental trade institutions has made it almost impossible to judge the legacy of Poland’s Communist-era fashion in the same way as it is in the West.

Mary Quant for Bazaar, Summer dress of printed silk, c. 1962, V&A Museum, T.41-2014. Image source: V&A (MA dissertation)
Ty i Ja, no. 5 (13), May 1961, p. 24. Image source: author’s collection (MA dissertation)
#VINTAGIZEIT (e-book) by Agata Rek

In May 2021 Krystyna contributed an article to an online publication (sold in PDF form) about collecting vintage fashion by Agata Rek. Her article, titled "Archival Magazines -- valuable complimentary objects within a fashion collection. Why it's worth collecting them and where to find them?" took directly from her dissertation research.

Link to purchase the E-book (in Polish) here.

Volunteering at the V&A's archives at Blythe House, Spring 2019
"Muzeum Mody" Instagram post about hairstyles in the 1830s