When it comes to fashion, Russia is all blinged-out in brands, fake tans, bulging cleavage and tendon-shattering footwear. Even in the dead of winter, you’ll be hit with a faceful of Gucci’d hootchie upon arrival. So, how did short-skirts and big brands become the fashion norm on the Soviet streets?
Raising the Skirt-ain
The Russian idea of fashion is largely reactionary to the previously restrictive government ideologies. Although styles shifted subtlety according to regime, westernized fashion trends were largely rejected during all eras of socialist Russia. Most leaders promoted the “Drab is Fab” fashion line –– seeking to clothe the masses in modest styles without color or flair. Like a sexy tiger that’s been caged for about 74 years, Russians were ready to go style wild when socialism fell.
Suffering to Be Beautiful
For Russian women, ‘comfort’ is a dirty word. Fashion is a way for Russian ladies to stand out in a nation where you must dress to impress even when taking out the trash. Don’t expect to see women dressed-down in jeans and a tee on any day that ends in ‘y’. In a region that’s covered in ice for six months of the year, it’s pretty impressive that these chicks still manage to wear stilettos. To the Western eye, the Russian style may seem flashy, over-the-top, or impractical, but women here pride themselves on looking like sparkling eye-candy. Accentuating what yo’ Mamulya gave ya with shorter skirts, tighter shirts and higher heels is the Russian way to looking runway-ready.
More on Footwear
Russians have very specific rules when it comes to proper footwear. Although these rules are somewhat dictated by the weather, one rule always applies –– when in doubt, wear heels (or black dress shoes if you are a dude). Russian women likely emerge from the womb with tiny heels on their baby feet –– and have turned walking on uneven cobblestone streets and icy roads in five-inch stilettos into a national sport. Ugg boots are cool to wear in winter, but most Russians favor traditional valenki boots, which are made out of felt. Neither should ever be worn with a mini-skirt in the summer. Unless you are at the beach, flips are a serious flop throughout Russia. And, remember to wear matching socks if visiting someone’s home –– taking off your stanky shoes at the door is always mandatory –– as is slipping on a pair of tapochki (house slippers) which the host normally provides.
Dressing as mediocre as possible used to be the epitome of cool. With newfound Russian freedom on all fronts, both men and women use brands (i.e., symbols of status) to make bold fashion statements. Russians look to the West for inspiration and hoard labels like Armani, Gucci and Prada (real or fake), in t-shirt, handbag, and even workout-gear form. The concept of subtlety is lost on the Russians and a little Diesel side label won’t do. Instead, Russians prefer to prominently display the brand name of anything worth wearing clearly, sometimes in combination with other brands layered on top. What we call clash, they call chic.
Showing skin in the Western world brings with it judgment that need not apply in Russia. Toss your preconceived notions about what kind of girl wears a mini-skirt and fishnets to the grocery store on a Sunday, because in Russia, most girls would. This means that when in Russia, you can feel free to wear your slutty Halloween outfits for more than one day per year and give the logo-heavy shirts at the bottom of your sock drawer a new, more glamorous, life in Mother Russia.