A Brief History of Russian Folk Dress


Snegurochka clashes with a modern look

It can be argued that the Russian traditional costume dress is well recognized around the world. It appears that the country is still holding on to those looks; reminding the world that they still keep their traditional appearance at heart. The most recent example is when beautiful Russian girls accompanied athletes from different nations in the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics.  The girls were wearing an interesting headgear, which immediately made everyone turn their attention to them. The headgear was exuding a very traditional Russian look. The ladies were specifically representing Snegurochka, also known as a “snow girl.”

“According to the legend the old man and woman who made her from snow used two deep blue beads for eyes, made two dimples in her cheeks, and used a piece of red ribbon for her mouth. Snegurochka was very beautiful, but when she came to life, she was even better. Snegurochka is often depicted with snow white skin, deep sky-blue eyes, cherry lips and curly fair hair. Originally Snegurochka wore only white garments and a crown, decorated with silver and pearls. Her present day costume is blue, red, white or silver and her crown is sometimes replaced by an embroidered cap with fur edging. She is probably one of the most attractive female characters in Russian culture.” (Russiapedia) 

This look highly resembles the traditional Russian costume the “sarafan” which became popular in the 18th century. This was not always considered to be Russian, in fact the look and the word itself came from Persia. The folk dress was mostly worn by peasant women who wanted to still be fashionable like the nobility class.


Peasant women wearing sarafan

The sarafan was brought to Russia byPeter the Great, who had a great impact on Russian everyday life. The ruler is considered by many the first fashion icon in Russia. Peter I created strict regulations on dress code because he had a strong desire to be more Western European. The nobility were obligated to follow the Western European fashion and eventually the fashion trends became the norm for the Russian society. Today you will still see these fashion trends in Russia because it is part of their culture, which cannot be forgotten.

Russian fashion history is extremely fascinating and it is important to see the gradual changes throughout centuries. I hope this post gives you some insight into Russian folk costumes because my next post will focus on how Russia is developing in the Fashion world.