Russian Fashion: 19th Century Fashion to Modern Clothing Style
Russia is a country with a long history and traditional clothing reflects it in many ways. Up to the reforms of Peter the Great in the mid-18th century, a traditional Russian costume was very recognizable.
It is difficult to say when the history of traditional clothing began in Russia. But we know well what Rurikoviches (princes in Kievan Rus’) wore even 1000 years ago. For example, the traditional casual men’s clothing was a “rubakha” (a variant of modern shirts and T-shirts). The “rubakha” did not have a special silhouette, therefore both women and children could wear it, both at home or during holidays or “for a special occasion”. This clothing was so comfortable that it had remained unchanged until the beginning of the 20th century, and now you can see people wearing it during national holidays.
Russian women wore “sarafans” – multi-colored long dresses with open shoulders. They often wore a rubakha or other clothes under a sarafan, so they were worn both every day and on special occasions. Another important element of the traditional women’s outfit is “shuba” (a fur coat). However, men also wore them. Due to the nothern climate, in winter, almost everyone wore fur coats; peasants sewed them from affordable furs, and rich ones made from sable, mink, and other types of valuable furs.
Until the mid-18th century, fashion in Russia was very traditional. Western fashion design trends did not penetrate into the country until Peter I had carried out reforms. Some of them concerned clothes. Tsar forbade to appear in the capital (St. Petersburg) in traditional clothes. Harsh reform led to the fact that St. Petersburg has become the capital of “European Russian fashion”. It was the time when the influence of Europe on fashion design in Russia began.
In the middle of the 19th century in Russian fashion flourished rococo style. Women began to wear dresses with narrow and low shoulders, a slim waist, and a crinoline skirt. Oval frames and corsets from the time of Louis XV have come into vogue. By the end of the century, high heels appeared, skirts became less fluffy, corsets became narrower.
At the beginning of the 20th century, casual wear (especially women’s) became more practical. Women got more freedom, emancipation led to the fact that clothes became looser. Gradually tight corsets completely disappeared from the wardrobe. In secular society, the progenitors of a modern cocktail dress appeared.
During the First World War, the men’s wardrobe changed under the influence of the military-style; this also affected women’s dresses. They became laconic, skirts – shorter, jackets and blouses of simple cut became fashionable.
The Silver Age (the 20s of the 20th century) was the heyday of Russian bohemians. Really revealing outfits were in fashion. Some women (for example, Lilya Brik, Mayakovsky’s beloved) boldly wore dresses made of transparent fabric over their naked bodies. Stockings, pearls, jewelry, hats – all this reflected the era of change. But serious changes took place…
… because the Bolsheviks came to power, who plunged the country into socialism. From now on, universality became the new black, and working clothes became the favorite outfit of both women and men. Simple sarafans, midi skirts, shorts, and ties came into fashion. Such clothes met the requirements of comfort in wearing.
World War II made adjustments to the wardrobe again. On the one hand, during the war it was not a good time to be fashionable, on the other hand, there was a tremendous exchange of trends with Europe. Militarization had a serious impact on fashion: shoulder pads became an attribute of women’s costume, broad pointed shoulders – a sign of masculinity and strength. Strict uniforms have become a part of everyday life. However, at the end of the war, Soviet fashion transformed a lot and became closer to a European one, despite the catastrophic decline of the light industry in the country. Russian women put on trophy dresses with sleeves-lanterns, small bolero jackets, hats and silk combinations brought by their husbands from Europe.
The 60s, 70s, 80s were the years of a gradual transformation of Russian fashion into the European one. This became especially noticeable in the 90s when the USSR ceased to exist. Russia has become a European country. Despite the fact that in the 90s Russian fashionistas lagged behind Europe, it gave impetus to the emergence of Russian designers who had their own style.
Famous Russian Fashion Designers
One of the most popular fashion designers nowadays is Denis Simachev. In the 2000s, he gained popularity due to his unique models. Denis’s collections are shown annually at Milan Fashion Week. The designer focuses on Soviet symbolism and Russian national motifs. Simachev is the person who made the world remember what is “Russian Khokhloma”!
Gosha Rubchinsky – a Russian streetwear designer, entered in 2016 as one of the 500 most influential people in the fashion world according to the Business of Fashion. He is also a photographer and a founder of the brand with the same name. Gosha Rubchinsky’s shows are remembered by unusual fashion models and clothing models – many critics believe that his collections are “a breath of fresh air in the industry”.
The names of Vyacheslav Zaitsev and Valentin Yudashkin are firmly connected with the Russian fashion since they have begun their activities in the USSR. By the way, in 2008, Valentin Yudashkin became the designer of the front military uniform of the regular army of Russia! Brand Yudashkin Jeans in casual style, produced by the Russian Fashion House Valentin Yudashkin, has fans all over the world.
The most famous Russian fashion designer is Vyacheslav Zaitsev, who amazes the public with his irrepressible imagination and bright colors. Despite the fact that now the designer is 81 years old, Vyacheslav still surprises fans with bold dresses with Russian motifs!
Another talented Russian fashion designer – Ulyana Sergeenko. She is well-known because her outfits are worn by such celebrities as Dita Von Teese, Natalia Vodianova, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, and others. Extravagant and elegant dresses attract the most famous women in the world.
Moscow GUM and TSUM – Centres of Russian Fashion
GUM (or Main Universal Store) is a large shopping complex in the center of Moscow, which occupies an entire block of Kitai-gorod and overlooks the main facade on Red Square. Built-in the pseudo-Russian style, GUM is an architectural monument of federal significance. A huge store was built in the 19th century, throughout the history GUM was a popular place for shopping, and today there are boutiques of almost all the elite brands represented in Russia. By the way, GUM is one of the main sights during our Moscow Off-the-Beaten Path tour!
TSUM (Central Department Store) is another huge store in the center of Moscow, located on the corner of Petrovka and Teatralnaya Square (Petrovka Street, Building 2). It was built in the Gothic style in 1908. With a total area of 70,000 m2, TSUM is one of the largest department stores in Europe! TSUM is a bit more difficult to find, but you can rely on our guides, who can always help you with the directions during tours around Moscow.
TSUM Trading House is positioning itself as a store selling luxury goods. Here are located stores of more than 2,000 brands, including Givenchy, Dolce&Gabbana, Valentino, Celine, Ralph Lauren, Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Chloe, Balmain, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Roberto Cavalli, Emilio Pucci, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, Patek Philippe, Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Berluti, Tom Ford, Bvlgari.
Even if you are not sure you’re ready to spend a lot of money on the most fashionable clothes in the world, GUM and TSUM are still worth visiting! After all, these are real architectural monuments with unique design solutions and large entertainment areas.
For more interesting posts about Moscow, visit our blog!
by Denis Bets