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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.

Affiliations: 1: University of Southern California


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