The majestic Tsaritsyno Estate in Moscow is currently home to a fascinating Russian fashion exhibition; a large-scale fashion retrospective exploring the history of Fashion Behind the Iron Curtain. The exhibition features over 1000 examples of Russian style, spanning seven decades from the 1920s to the 1990s.
The austere Soviet era isn’t one most fashion fans would associate with glamour; during this time the average Russian consumer had limited options when it came to fashion and other luxuries. The fortunate few who had the money and means to travel became the leading ladies of the Russian fashion scene, bringing back gowns and accessories created by popular western designers, and sparking western-inspired fashion trends in Russia.
Russian actresses and ballerinas wore elaborate, elegant ensembles designed to withstand the frigid climate; their fashion choices included luxurious silks and furs, accessorised with hats and gloves. This Russian fashion retrospective will feature some of the era’s most iconic style choices, including:
• The floral-patterned mini dress worn by politician’s daughter Galina Brezhev in what many Russians considered a risqué fashion statement at the time;
• The much-coveted pumps created by Italian fashion designer Salvatore Ferragamo and worn by Russian ballerina Galina Ulanova;
• The gorgeous strapless red gown worn by Ukrainian silver-screen star Klara Luchko to the Cannes Film Festival in the 1960s – the captivating crimson creation earned her the nickname “the Red Bomb”.
Despite the political and economic circumstances that made luxuries so hard to come by, Russian women adopted a fashion aesthetic of their own behind the Iron Curtain, making do with what little they had. Many would stand in a queue for hours – sometimes even overnight – to buy the dressmaking patterns and fabrics that were so scarce. For special occasions, many Russian women would make do with silk night gowns in place of the fashionable crepe-de-Chine dresses worn by their wealthier counterparts.The Russian fashion showcase now taking place in Moscow gives visitors a unique insight into the history of clothing and costumes in Soviet-era Russian culture; exhibitions include garments, shoes and accessories, illustrations and photographs from fashion publications. The exceptional exhibition was seven years in the making, as sourcing Soviet era garments in good condition proved to be a challenge. Russian fashion historians and private collectors worked with the Department of Culture for the City of Moscow to the project to fruition and make their vision a reality. Fashion Behind the Iron Curtain opened in February and will run until June 12. This celebration of Russian fashion history promises to be an unforgettable experience!
Nicky Warner is an avid writer and blogger with a keen interest in fashion history and trends, from garments of long-gone eras to modern-day boutique dresses.