The Development of a National Style in Russian Civilian and Military Dress, 1880s-1910s

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  • 1 Assistant Professor, Institute of Design and Arts, St. Petersburg State University of Industrial Technologies and Design


This article focuses on the revival and development of a “national style” in Russian civilian and military dress from the 1880s to the period of World War I. The Slavophile movement [slavianophilstvo] and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 played a large part in the Russian style revival during the reign of Tsar Alexander III. The idea of a national style was a source of inspiration for the Tsar when he ordered the introduction of new army outfits based on peasant dress. This policy also served to represent the Tsar visually as a skazochnyi silach-bogatyr [mighty fairytale bogatyr]—symbol of a new and powerful Russia. This article analyzes ways in which Russian civilian dress changed under the influence of the Russian-style military outfits of Alexander III’s army. It then examines the impact of the later “Neo-Russian” style on costume from nineteenth-century Russian operas, to the All-Russian Art and Industry exhibitions of the 1880s, to the boutiques for national dress which opened in Russia during this period. The second part of the article focuses on the later evolution of the national style in civilian dress during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. It analyzes examples of early designs for reformed military outfits that were based on Russian folklore traditions. Although these were not actually manufactured, they were much discussed, and influenced the growth of public interest in Russian costume of the seventeenth century. Finally, this article argues that a new wave of popularity of a style in dress that was inspired by Russian folklore was connected with the beginning of World War I.


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