Designs for Everyone: Transforming Women’s Fashions in Early Twentieth-Century Russia

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The world of women’s fashion in early twentieth-century Russia provides a rich context for measuring shifts in class identity and in gender norms, as the major cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg were witnessing broad social transformation. If not for the Revolution, the late-Imperial period may well have anticipated the mature markets of the West, where haute couture and the garment industry fueled widespread consumption and became what are now essential components of modern collective social behavior. In Russia, the intensified urbanization of the early twentieth century also ushered in the rise of new forms of popular culture, which often intersected with the world of women’s fashion. Specialized periodicals, such as fashion magazines and the new art of cinema, fueled a cult interest in the latest sartorial trends. A reflection of this phenomenon can also be found in Teffi’s (pseudonym of Nadezhda Aleksandrovna Lokhvitskaia, 1872-1953) broadly circulated stories, which allowed readers to better understand the perceived transformative power of fashion, even when expressed on the seemingly minor level of a small collar or hat.


A Journal of Russian Culture



Ruane, The Empire’s New Clothes, 115-128; E. Oliunina, Portnovskii promysel (Moscow 1914), pp. 14-21.


Teffi, “Broshechka,” in Yumoristicheskie razskazy. Kniga pervaia (St. Petersburg: Shipovnik, 1910), pp. 51-57.


Teffi, “Shliapa,” in Zhit’e byt’e (Petrograd: Deshevaia yumoristicheskaia biblioteka zhurnala Novogo Satirikona, n.d. [1916]), pp. 50-54.


Teffi, “Shliapa,” pp. 50-54.


Teffi, “Pugovitsa,” in Yumoristicheskie razskazy. Kniga vtoraia (St. Petersburg: Shipovnik, 1911), pp. 66-73.


Teffi, “Zhizn’ i vorotnik,” in Yumoristicheskie razskazy. Kniga pervaia (St. Petersburg: Shipovnik, 1910), pp. 182-86.


  • Postcard of Parisian fashions, circulated in Russia, 1913.
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  • A fashionable hat from 1913, published in the inexpensive fashion periodical Zhenskoe delo.
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  • The actress and tango dancer El’za Kriuger, 1914.
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  • The actress Lidiia Lipkovskaia, circa 1913.
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  • Fashion postcard distributed in Russia, 1913.
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  • Fashionable model with a jabot collar, published in Damskii mir, Moscow, 1913.
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  • Elena Smirnova as Mania. Still from Ditia bol’shogo goroda (Child of the Big City), directed by Evgenii Bauer (1914).
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  • Advertisement for Pate Zhurnal, Moscow, 1913.
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  • Cover for Zhurnal dlia khoziaek (Moscow, 1 Feb 1914). The image is a rendering by the artist Paul Meras of a dress design by the Russian artist Léon Bakst. The image was originally published in the London periodical Sketch as part of a larger picture with several models. In the picture for Sketch, Meras depicts Bakst’s designs for the French couturier Jeanne Paquin, with some stylistic changes. For the image chosen for the magazine cover, Meras has added a jabot collar.
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  • Fashion postcard distributed in Russia, circa 1912.
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