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Russian Diaries: Dressing in Moscow Summer 2015

Carolyn Woodruff

Muscovites in their forties are polished European dressers, and most dress codes at nice restaurants and clubs require upscale dressing and “no sports shoes.” There is quite a snobbery of sorts concerning sports shoes, and frequently you will see “no sports shoes” allowed.  This directive seems almost directed at the tendency of American travelers to wear tennis shoes at every available opportunity.  I saw no Russian in sport’s shoes or tennis shoes, but I would assume the Muscovite would wear sports shoes in the gym, although I did not actually visit a gym and I never saw one in our upscale hotel.  I, however, didn’t search for the gym because every day was quite athletic without the gym—walking, dancing….

Polished Muscovites are into name branded shoes and purses.  At the Bolshoi, I noted the lady sitting next to me carried a Channel Bag and wore the traditional Channel flat shoe, the one with the cap toe.  I noticed all around me Valentino and Dior.  It is easy to spot Valentino because of the studded detail and Dior because of the D.  I believed they were authentically dressed, and these did not appear to be “knockoffs.”  I also saw no stores or street vendors selling knock-offs.   I don’t recall seeing Tory Burch or Kors in these groups, but Kors signs were everywhere.

Let’s face it; dressing in name brands is extremely expensive, so I feel these Muscovites were sending the message that they have arrived and are successful financially.  Let’s turn a bit to the fashion of those not so middle aged and not yet established.

Helen, age 30, is a self-proclaimed “hipster.” She is a lawyer in Moscow. I would describe her fashion as cheaper, but very high, current fashion.  Helen has the fashion line, Ginger  Woo.  I do note that I saw lots of the current high fashion jeans in the distressed look—holes and shredded.

I note that law student Arina and linguist Ani were conservatively and appropriately dressed.  They are both early twenties, and they accompanied us as translators and guides.  Arina wore a black flat similar in fashion to the traditional Channel flat, and Arina wore more of a brogue, something Barbara Bui might design.  They wore a lot of black, and the pants length was always the current two inches or so above the ankle.  Arina’s mom sported the Dior flats, as the manager of the dance studio where we practiced and were affiliated with while in Moscow.  The hired guide for the Metro wore a buffalo print shirt and a “puffed” vest, as that day was a bit chilly.

So what did I pack for this excursion, other than of course the dance costumes and practice wear? I packed the following shoes: my main evening shoe was the Weitzman gladiator boot to the knee (and I saw others with this look). These boots looked good with the Red Valentino mini skirt, the Bebe black feather mini; and the Léger fringed long gown I took for the evenings. I mixed various current cut tops with the minis, along with a long black vest from Zara. It is popular to wear a mini skirt with a middy length vest. In the day, I wore name brand jeans, Armani tees, and middy length vests. My day shoes were Barbara Bui brogues and colored J. Crew flats. I did have one pair of pink Chuck Taylor’s I wore in the day to pop a pink outfit, but these really don’t come across as the hated American sports shoe. I used a leather Valentino bomber jacket as my primary coat when needed, although I also carried a Layfette 148 purple leather jacket I didn’t wear. I limited my jewelry to my large watch and a high fashion costume cuff and big ring due to a fear of safety, although the Metropol Hotel had a safe in our room. I also carried a large blue and large mint shawl scarf and a mini Channel bag. I took a mini Stella and Dot bag. I traveled with a big clear “tote” I bought in the travel section at Rite-Aid, but this was used only at the airport and travel.