Moscow schoolgirls get a new look but the uniforms somehow fail to fit

Some grown-up goofed. This seems to be the explanation of what might be called Moscow's great skirt-and-jacket debate of 1983.

The skirts and jackets in question belong to a revised uniform for thousands of Moscow schoolgirls and can be had, indeed must be had, on the fourth floor of Detskii Mir, the mammoth children's store just a hammer-and-sickle's throw from the Kremlin.

All in all, the targeted eighth- and ninth-graders had been looking forward to mothballing their old outfits. These consisted of dark brown dresses with aprons, black for most days and white for holidays, that left the Western eye with the odd impression that Moscow was jampacked with apprentice waitresses.

On paper, the new uniforms looked fine: blue pleated skirts, smart vests, and matching jackets.

There, alas, the good news ended. Forget the fact the material used turns out to have been substandard, the sewing work even more so.

The main hitch is that most of the uniforms simply don't fit most of the kids , or, as Izvestia chuckled out loud a few days ago, the kids don't fit the uniforms.

The first public sign something was amiss came earlier in the month in the Communist Party youth newspaper, which explained that the central designing authorities had somehow managed to churn out mostly king-size outfits. So great was the resultant wave of maternal despair that, according to the paper, representatives of the sewing factory refused to do their turn at customer-service in Detskii Mir.

Worse, individual uniforms seem to have been grossly mismatched.

''Every day I go with my daughter to Detskii Mir,'' a woman grumbles in Izvestia's follow-up article. ''In the outfits they showed me, the skirt fits my little Olga. The jacket turns out to fit me!''

''My girl doesn't fit the uniform. But she's a normal girl, look at her!''

A dismayed ninth-grader says that not only is her new uniform uncomfortable, ''But it wrinkles right off.''

The director of Detskii Mir laments that when the first batch of uniforms arrived at the end of May, it was clear that not only would it be tough to sell the new outfits, ''but even to put them on display was out of the question.'' He said that, right off the bat, he'd sent back 18,000 of the uniforms for resewing.

In Leningrad, which is also switching to the new uniforms, what amounts to a spontaneous boycott has materialized: Out of 10,000 put on sale, only 1,000 have been sold.

Asked ''what happened,'' an official at the central design bureau explained eloquently in mid-August: ''It's tough to say. We need time to sort this out.''

By month's end, time for reflection was clearly up: ''The directors who displayed carelessness have been called to strict party account,'' Izvestia says.

Another odd thing about this August in Moscow is that the man in charge in the Kremlin - the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party - is evidently not on vacation.

The fact is not of earthshaking political importance, but does serve as a reminder that there is a new man at the top:

Leonid Brezhnev used to head south to the Crimean coast for summer vacation.

Yuri Andropov, before becoming party leader last November, was in the habit of taking his break in the autumn and - since his doctors recommended against the Crimean climate - Mr. Andropov seems to have preferred the Caucasus.

The Brezhnev tradition included holding a series of informal chats with visiting East-bloc leaders while on vacation - a pattern that seems to have been changed under his successor.



* But the talk of Moscow nowadays seems to center less on politics than on potables: specifically, on toughened measures against mixing drink with driving.

As of Sept. 1, a driver under ''even minimal'' influence of alcohol will be subject to a fine of 30 to 100 rubles ($40 to $140 at the official exchange rate) or to loss of his license for a year. The fine represents a hefty chunk of the typical Soviet worker's monthly paycheck.

Tougher yet for the drinking driver is the fact the new rules coincide with a crackdown on corruption among traffic police, who, in theory, are supposed to abandon traditional encouragement of under-the-dashboard bribes for leniency.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.