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Traditional Russian clothing

Original Russian clothing.

Traditional Russian clothing is different from clothing of other countries of the world and even from the neighboring countries. Traditions have been preserved primarily within the peasantry.

During the reign of Peter I, the Russian tsar issued a decree that prohibited wearingtraditional Russian clothing in favor of foreign clothes. It was the outward manifestation of all the innovations introduced by Peter I.

Peasants were not affected by this decree. Peasants are real conservatives who rarely made any changes in their clothing. Clothing traditions in Russia among the peasants were handed down from generation to generation. And clothing was made mostly at home by using various home-produced materials.

Besides peasants, clothing traditions were preserved by the Cossacks, freeholders, Old Believers and other strata of Russian society.

Russia is a big country with diverse climate zones: from subtropical to arctic. In every region of vast Russia different styles of clothing emerged.

Traditional conservative way of life of Russian peasants

Unchanging way of life of the peasantry, restraint and adherence to traditions affected a typical female costume. Traditional Russian women’s clothing almost completely hid the female figure and focused on the face with the help of a headdress that completely hid the hair. At the same time, men’s clothing was extremely simple and almost the same throughout Russia.

A peasant girl with a calf (1820s). Alexey Venetsianov

A peasant girl with a calf (1820s) / Alexey Venetsianov

Color schemes in clothing

Traditionally, Russian clothing has two main colors – a natural color of the material – white, and red. “Red” is the same word that was used in the olden days to call everything beautiful. That is, red elements in clothing became beautiful elements. Interaction with other nations led to emergence of very interesting new colors in Russian clothing: yellow, gold, blue, etc.

A woman with a boy at the well (the first half of the 19th century). Unknown Artist

A woman with a boy at the well (the first half of the 19th century) / Unknown Artist

Patterns and embroideries used in decorating clothes

For the southern regions of Russia plant and geometric patterns were common, while for the Russian North – geometric patterns, zoological patterns and those associated with human life: the figures of peacocks, leopards, horses; the tree of life, crosses, complex diamond shapes and so on.

Belt

Belt is a mandatory part of traditional Russian clothing for both men and women. Belt was considered to have protective powers, acted as an amulet. Girls wore on their beltspocket-“lakomki”, and women wore on their belts purses for money and little things. Women tied their belts under their chest or under the belly. Men wore on their belts (homespun or leather) smoking accessories.

Outerwear for the transition period (spring and autumn)

Surprisingly, outerwear was the same for both men and women. Those were caftans, homespun coats,peasant overcoats and so on. The main similarity in clothing was a deep fold on the left side.

Winter clothing

Winter clothing for men and women was also similar. Those were sheepskin coats, hareskin coats, half-length fur coats – all with the fur on the inside.

Festive clothing (beginning of the 20th century). Northern Russia, Tver Province

Festive clothing (beginning of the 20th century) / Northern Russia, Tver Province / Photo from the collection of Natalia Shabelskaya

On the outsidewinter clothes were also decorated.

Clothing was cinched at the waist with belts – sashes.

The Industrial revolution

Development of the industry and reduced prices of fabrics and garments, urban development had an impact on the traditional Russian clothing. Gradually among conservative peasants such women’s clothing items as “skirt-blouse” and even a dressbegan to appear.

Such changes occurred faster in the central regions of Russia, near big cities, slower – in remote villages.
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