During the Soviet era, limitations on materials and manufacturing forced many Russians to dress in poorly made, out-of-fashion clothing. However, since the fall of communism, economic improvements and an increase in trade with other countries has improved the quality of clothing and fashion for middle- and upper-class Russians of all ages.
Prior to the 18th century, Russian attire remained largely the same as it had been during the Middle Ages. Both men and women dressed in plain clothes of wool, cotton and linen. Those who could afford it sometimes dyed their clothing blue or red. The sarafan was a dress worn by people of both sexes until Peter the Great ruled that men of the upper classes must dress like Europeans. This dress had a triangular shape and women often wore a tall headdress known as a kokoshnik to accompany it. As the peasant population dwindled during the time of the Russian Revolution, the wearing of sarafans became less common.
Today, Russian men increasingly dress like men in Europe and America, favoring casual, comfortable clothing over the tracksuits that were emblematic of Russian male attire in the immediate post-Soviet years. Casual dress is common even in professional environments, where sweaters, blue jeans and tie-less shirts seek to foster a relaxed attitude. Outside of office hours, men typically wear sweatpants and other sporty, loose-fitting clothing during the warmer months, exchanging them for coats and scarves when winter comes.
In winter, many women wear fur-lined coats, puffa coats and babushkas, while sandals are seldom seen even during the warmer months. Platform shoes and moccasins are more common, and boots are ubiquitous in winter. During Orthodox church services, women are expected to cover their hair, owing to an ancient tradition that says women's hair carries mysterious and potentially dangerous power, and to refrain from wearing jeans or low-cut clothing. Instead, most worshipers wear scarves and long dresses or skirts.
Clothing for Children
Reversing years of declining population numbers, Russia experienced a baby boom in the first half of the 2010s, becoming the largest market for children's clothing in Europe. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, many schools no longer enforced compulsory school uniforms and children dressed casually, but in 2013, the Ministry of Education passed a new law mandating the return of uniforms in public schools. While expectations for student clothing vary depending on the school, parents typically purchase blue, gray and red uniforms. In winter, they give their children thick hats to protect them from freezing and meningitis in subzero temperatures. These hats normally are lined with fur and children rarely, if ever, venture outside without them.
- Culture and Customs of Russia; Sydney Schultze
- The Russian Fashion Blog: A Brief History of the Sarafan
- Russia Beyond the Headlines: How to Dress Like a Russian Man
- St. Petersburg Essential Guide: Winter in St. Petersburg Russia
- Way to Russia: Travel Advice for Women in Russia
- Russia Beyond the Headlines: 12 Russian Fashion Rules
- Telegraph: Russia's Baby Boom Boosts Children's Goods Sectors
- One Europe: School Uniform -- Russian Experience
- Encyclopedia of National Dress; Jill Condra, ed.
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