Of all the cold-weather clothing developed by cultures, the traditional Russian clothing combined influences from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Russian peasants wore simple clothes for comfort while working outdoors in freezing weather or relaxing indoors by the fire with families and friends. The practical traditional designs lasted through to modern times.
Children's garments tended to be simplified versions of adult clothing. Seamstresses designed simply cut frocks for easy movement. Everyday clothing in cotton or wool kept the child comfortable. For more festive occasions, sleeves and hems could have stitched ribbons of fabric and ornaments.
Traditional Russian women's clothing kept to simply cut, straight-lined garments with generous sleeves. Most necklines were collarless. The full-length dress, sometimes called the "sarafan," was designed to be comfortable for work chores, as well as flattering and dignified. Decorative details of embroidery, cross-stitch and ornaments combined beauty with protections against an evil spirit. Garments were made of cotton, linen, wool and silk. Colours ranged from natural beiges to brightly dyed reds, greens, yellows and blues.
Russian men traditionally wore garments made of cotton, linen, sheep wool, with jackets of leather and fur. Their shirts followed a simple design with full sleeves for work and a collarless or small-collared neckline. The shirt, the "rubakha," typically buttoned partially down the front, while the "kosovorotka," a slightly different-style shirt, buttoned down the side. A working shirt might be left plain with dark colours to hide dirt. For dressier occasions, the shirt came in bright colours with decorative strips of material or ribbon on the sleeves, cuffs, hem and neckline.
Accessories and Special Occasions
A selection of accessories complemented traditional Russian clothing. Indispensable for the cold Russian winters were the felt boots called "valenki." Men, women and children wore these warm sheep-wool boots both in the home and outdoors. To keep heads warm, sheepskin and rabbit fur were used for coverings such as the "ushanka." The hoodlike hat protected the head, with flaps behind the neck and covering the ears. For ceremonies and celebrations, women and girls wore lighter headdresses known as "kokoshniks." The crown-shaped hat consisted of silk with shiny ribbons, beads, pearls and other ornaments.
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