Fashion of Russian Women has several key differences compared to the rest of the world due to the external influences. It is a fact that culture is affected by the place people lives in, and different living space can mean wildly different cultures, assuming the two cultures never interact and assimilate parts of the other’s culture. Russia is no exception. As Russia is known for its unstable climate, brief summer and spring combined with cold that can reach as low as minus 40 degrees, the way Russian people dress up are partially affected with this. There are also different things to wear to different places due to the uneven roads, snow, local politeness, and even demographic. Due to this, Russian women have a lot of rules regarding what to wear and not to wear for certain situations.
How Russian Women Dress Themselves
The saying “Good clothes open all doors” perfectly illustrates the fashion of Russian women. The stereotype of “Russian woman is beautiful” does have some grounds in reality due to the way the women dress even while taking a simple trip towards the grocery store. However, they have rules for most occasions, including going to the theatre, church, or even bathhouse. As the climate is unstable and can change in a matter of hours, especially in places like St. Petersburg, some choose to wear their clothing in layers. They take a layer off when it is too hot and add layers when it gets too cold. One of the more essential items, fur hats, while might look strange and funny to foreigners, is also recommended, as waiting for transportation to arrive can get really cold due to the unstable weather, the cold can cause sicknesses such as meningitis. The fur can lessen the chances of sickness, as well as reduce injury by cushioning the head in case an icicle hanging overhead drops on one’s head.
In addition, due to the weather, the roads turn into a makeshift skating rink most of the time, and due to this, it is a necessity to have every pair of shoes fixed with an anti-slide sole so one wouldn’t slip. Alpine boots can also be an option, but depending on the occasion, one can get strange looks from the passerby, especially when walking in a busy city center. Another option would be an anti-ice spray, but even this have its own drawback, as the spray’s ingredient can leave white spots on the shoes. The last option would be using waterproofing sprays, but this too can eventually destroy the shoes without proper cleaning and treating.
Churches are an important part for Russian people, and when a woman is going to the church, the fashion of Russian women is subjected to even more strict rules. Women are expected to wear something modest without making it seem that they are not suitable for the occasion or they might be asked to leave. Do not wear something that is overly extravagant, but do not wear something like t-shirt and jeans, as well.
One safe combination to wear is a modest knee length skirt, a clothing with high neck top, and headscarf, hood, or hat, along with a comfortable pair of shoes. Women are expected to cover their heads during service with the headscarf, as hoods and hats are only acceptable when the headscarf can’t be used. Wearing comfortable shoes are important as the service can be quite long, and one is expected to stand all the way with exceptions for invalids and elderly. For wedding services and services for the dead, do not wear any lipsticks, as it can leave marks on the cross or on the forehead of the dead body.
In a formal setting such as the office, dressing correctly for the occasion is important, even enforced. All people must dress correctly from shoes to tie, and jeans are allowed only on Fridays. Running shoes and sneakers are not allowed, and on all work occasions one must be dressed with a proper business suit. A common belief in Russia is that when one is dressed properly for work, one must be ready to work the best they can, and thus dressing in proper work attire is enforced more strictly.
When invited to a banya (read more about Banya in The History of Russian Banya), one should not wear swimsuits as expected of many bathhouses around the world, but they should be naked, and wearing swimsuits can earn odd looks from the onlookers and bad for the health as swimsuits can contract in the extreme heat. As the common saying goes, “We are all equal in the bathhouse”, that is, naked. The proper fashion for going to a banya is a simple clothing and a pair of slippers.
One very noticeable thing that differentiates Russian fashion from the rest of the world is the existence of sneakers and the usage of high heels. Sneakers might be a very common part of one’s attire in many parts of the world. However, in Russia sneakers are a relatively recent addition, should not be worn alongside with business attire, dresses, and slacks and restricted only for casual walking or exercise. Some might attempt to combine attires, but due to the recent addition of sneakers, even now this is seen as a very strange thing only done by teenagers. As for high heels, other than the few occasions mentioned above, it is very acceptable to wear high heels on settings such as universities and public transports. Some sources even state that some women wear high heels even in winter, which can make walking on ice difficult.
Even though trends may vary and change from time to time, there are several rules that dictate what kind of clothes. The rules, combined with the natural unstable weather, helps to keep several items worn out of necessity even as the style changes due to the attempt of following the trends.
For more about Russian Culture, please visit The History of Matryoshka and The History of Samovar. For the first step in learning conversational Russian language please go to 150 Words for Beginners and Greetings in Russian Language.