Ciao! I am Julia. As a Russian woman living in Italy, I have noticed distinct differences between women’s style in Russia versus that in Italy. I would like to share those observations with you.
Good clothes open all doors – Thomas Fuller
This quote is a perfect way to describe what clothes mean to Russians. The next time you are at the airport, if you see a girl with high heels, costly jewelry, expensive handbag, and cart full of shopping bags from famous high-end shops, you can be sure that she is Russian.
There is a logical explanation for this: Russia used to be a closed country, without imported goods until perestroika. As a result, things really changed by the ‘90s; many people suddenly made a lot of money. They could finally afford everything they wanted, and particularly in smaller cities in Russia, people are still at that point; they never tire of buying luxury items.
Compare this to what we see in Italy – Europe already passed this period long ago, and most people there are reluctant to waste their money simply in order to wear a brand name or something that is uncomfortable but looks great.
If you visit Red Square, Moscow’s most popular tourist attraction and one of the few areas where the old cobblestone paving is preserved, you will see women walking around in high heels. You see the same in huge malls and on the subway. Russian girls just love high heels.
They can wear them everywhere 365 days a year, while European women are the complete opposite. European girls only put on their heels when they go out to dinner and to other special events.
Comfort is the first thing an Italian woman thinks about when choosing her shoes for a walk with friends, shopping or to take the subway; she won’t put on high heels for just anything. In smaller Italian cities, some girls wear flats even to clubs, something which would never happen in Russia. In my opinion, clubs and bars are precisely the places where you would want to wear heels (unless you are really tall).
Looking beautiful comes first for Russian women. An explanation for this might be that Russian women compete with each other over men. The more beautiful they look, the more chances they have of finding a man. They also want to dress in a way that makes them appear respectable; the accessories you wear and car you drive are almost like a business card, showing which niche you belong to in society.
Italy is quite different. Italians are very fashion-conscious. They follow new fashion trends and mostly dress in accordance with the occasion. Some Italians still like to show off expensive clothing just because.
They successfully mix elegant and casual styles and are just plain stylish. Historically, Italians have demonstrated a talent for creating beautiful things. Just look at their architecture, paintings, and fashion; it seems as if good taste runs in their blood.
Italian women use the same handbag every day, and it will most likely be an expensive one. Russians like to change their bags to match their look that day. I am like this; I simply get bored of using the same bag every day, and desire frequent change.
There are similar differences between Italian and Russian women when it comes to jewelry. In Russia, for example, you will see women wearing diamonds at all times of the day, even in the early morning.
I noticed that Italian girls wear lots of silver bracelets together. They also love big earrings. However, diamonds are seen most often on a mature woman.
Russian women take great care to look after themselves. They spend a lot of time and money getting the perfect manicure and pedicure, as well as visiting spas and beauty salons. This is a very important ritual. Italian girls tend to wear more makeup; you can see a girl with smoky eyes early in the morning or sunbathing with a completely made-up face. On the contrary, Russian girls focus these days on wearing natural-looking makeup. Flawless skin is more important than makeup.
In Russia, women dress for the weather. In Italy, you can see women wearing ballerinas or pumps even when it is snowing. I still find this ridiculous and don’t understand the point. Due to cold winters in Russia, many women wear fur, even 18-year-olds, but in Italy, only mature women wear fur coats. While it is not uncommon to see an Italian woman cover up an evening dress with a winter coat, you would never see this in Russia: if a girl is going to really dress up, her entire look will be elegant.
In Italy, elderly women are always very dressed up; they are so elegant that they give the impression that they take better care of themselves than do younger women. Mature women also tend to dress elegantly, although I have noticed that some dress very casually, maybe wearing something you normally see on teenagers. This is something that still looks unusual to me.
In Russia, it is the opposite: young girls dress so elegantly that it makes them look older.
As we know, each country has its own fashion trends, common ways of dressing and style for many reasons: cultural, climatic, religious, and economic. I believe that we should respect peoples’ fashion preferences when we visit their countries, but I also think that style is a part of your personality. It is important to not lose yourself while trying to fit into another culture.
My style is mostly elegant. Although I used to wear heels every day, I love it that now in Italy, I can wear flats and dress more casually without feeling underdressed compared to everyone around me.
In Italy, I often feel different than other people, even when I just wear a top, ballerinas and jeans; people still tell me that I look Russian or very elegant due to my updo, jewelry, etc. I still like wearing high heels, and I am fine with people asking me if I am going out somewhere after whatever we are doing. I just say, “No, I am just being myself.” 🙂
Be yourself, everyone else is already taken – Oscar Wilde.
I was born in Russia and moved to America a couple years ago. I’m hoping that your insights in fashion can help me dress more like a European/Russian because I absolutely love it. It’s a bit hard to do it myself because I’m so accustomed to the American style and I’m not in favor of it very much. Thank you!!
Well done, Julia! Many of us can relate to this. I remember a trip to Venice one year. I arrived in LA style and left in Italian style. Also on a trip to Brazil, a trip to Hong Kong… it is the nature of the beast.
Someone once asked Queen Beatrix if she wasn’t uncomfortable about making royal visits in different countries and not knowing what to say or how to dress.
“Not at all,” she replied. “The word ‘formal’ has in it the word ‘form’. There is a form that is followed worldwide and so I am never out of place.”
[Think Kate Middleton, who went from jeans to conservative wear. Meaghan Markle and Melania Trump have thankfully elevated this a few notches.]
I just wish that the Russians would stop wearing fur! (Maybe they will lose their taste for this now that the top designers are dropping fur from their lines. Prada just announced this last week (April 2018). Yayyy!