YANGON FASHION 1979 – Fashion=Resistance


Lukas Birk


Yangon Fashion 1979 is a book released in February 2020. The book offers a unique insight into the fashion photographs that brought a spark of free expression to the youth of Yangon in the late 1970s.


In 1962, General Ne Win staged a coup d’état that triggered the slow economic and social decline of Myanmar – a country praised as the new ‘Asian Tiger’ only a decade earlier. By the 1970s, the country was under severe oppression. Imports, exports and communication with the outside world for citizens came to a halt. Places like Yangon University became a centre for rebellion; its strongest moment came in 1988, when thousands protested and many were killed.


A more subtle form of rebellion was happening in the local photo studios. As wearing Western-style fashion was not the social norm, the studio become a place of free fashion expression. Illegally imported issues of magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Vogue were taken to tailors and fashionable flared trousers, shirts and dresses were copied and brought to the photo studio. The resulting images were like an old-school Instagram – an exchange of physical imagery. Sometimes young women showed off their style with an extra-risqué pose in a mini skirt.


It was a rebellion, an imagination, and an escape, where people aspired to something that could not be revealed in the outer world.


The images show that fashion always comes through, no matter the barriers. And no matter in what conditions people live, they want to look beautiful and present themselves as such. In such times, a pair of flares and a pair of sunglasses might just start a revolution.

Find the Book here.