One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Russia was the fashion.
Women were walking around in matching coordinated suits, stylish purses, statement earrings, and heels in every color. Even when women wear tennis shoes, they don’t look like they’re being worn for practicality—just another deliberate piece in a carefully planned ensemble.
When I got a gym membership here in St. Petersburg I observed that women don’t even wear gym clothes to the gym, they bring them with them. Then, after they’re done exercising, a lot of them get re-ready for the day by doing their hair and fixing their makeup. Because of this, it’s very uncommon to see women wearing exercise clothes on the street. In America, yoga pants and athleisure are an everyday occurrence that no one bats an eye at. It doesn’t matter if someone has any actual plans of going to the gym or if they’re just running errands, because comfort is prioritized on the daily for many American women. But here, gym clothes are just that—gym clothes.
And makeup? It’s huge here. While the makeup scene in America is big, it’s not unusual to see women without makeup. In Saint Petersburg, I never see women without makeup. Even one of the other girls in the program said she hasn’t even seen her host mom without makeup, and they live together.
At first, it was a bit intimidating to be surrounded by all of these put together women dressed to the nines all the time. I was used to wearing athleisure on the daily and maybe wearing makeup once or twice a week if I felt like it, but it was definitely not something I felt the need to do.
As they say, “When in Rome…”
So, I began getting up and doing my makeup every day and choosing nicer outfits on the day-to-day. And, after three weeks of this, I have to admit I understand why they do it.
I feel so much more put together and confident when I’m dressing nice and putting my best foot forward—plus, it became a habit so much faster than I would have imagined. I already don’t think about when I get ready and even my makeup routine has become simplified.
A lot of my friends and I have talked about just how much better it makes us feel about ourselves and how we hope we can continue this when we get back home.
Some people might feel like talking about the fashion of Russia might not be the most important or impactful topic, but it’s astounding how the clothes and makeup and hair lends the city a completely different feel just walking down the street than anywhere I’ve ever been. It makes the city feel so vibrant and alive. The fashion, like everything else I’ve noticed about Saint Petersburg, makes me just feel like I’m surrounded by beauty and an atmosphere that cares about its appearance and how it is presented to the world.
By: Hannah Farley
Program: Russian Language & Area Studies, St. Petersburg, Russia
Term: Summer 2019