Russian women of the 20th century (PHOTOS)

Alexei Mazurin/MAMM/MDF;Getty Images
We trace the appearance and attire of women from Tsarist Russia, through the Soviet Union, all the way to the “wild” 1990s.


What images do you associate with pre-revolutionary Russian ladies? Probably peasant women...

...or gymnasium students...

And, of course, aristocrats

MORE PHOTOS from the 1900–10s available here


After the Revolution, everything changed, including women’s appearance. The first Komsomol members made leather jackets fashionable, and the NEP era and avant-garde art ushered in stylish hats and dresses.

The era’s defining sex symbol was Lilya Brik with her overt eroticism.

Lilya Brik
The Blue Blouse agitprop theater staged variety performances; this is a scene from a sketch called “Metropolitan.”

MORE PHOTOS from the 1920s available here


At the height of Stalinism, when collectivization and industrialization were sweeping the USSR, women were expected, above all, to be useful members of society. You won't see many fashionistas in old photos of this time — they were condemned as carriers of harmful capitalist values.

But you will see workers...

...peasant laborers...

... and athletes.

Women carrying scarves. Sports parade on Red Square

MORE PHOTOS from the 1930s available here


World War II recalibrated the way that Russian women looked and dressed. Many dressed in military uniform

Sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko

or worked in factories in the rear

At a defense factory. Female

Only long-awaited Victory on May 9, 1945, allowed people to relax — simple pleasures, such as walking and sunbathing by the sea, were caught on camera.

Vacation in Crimea

MORE PHOTOS from the 1940s available here


The post-war years, the death of Stalin, and the start of the “Khrushchev thaw” completely transformed the fairer half of the USSR.

These were the years of smiles

... hopes for a new life...

... and a return to la dolce vita

Actress Irina Mushtakova

MORE PHOTOS from the 1950s available here


The Khrushchev thaw continued, the smiles became wider. Women started sporting trendy glasses, high hairstyles, and snazzy chintz dresses.

The first fashionistas appeared.

All-Union House of Models

Beautiful actresses conquered male hearts and became immortalized in screen classics.

Actress Alisa Freindlich

MORE PHOTOS from the 1960s available here


These were the years of the Brezhnev stagnation, yet the lives of ordinary Soviet people were in full swing. Women found time for stylish hairdos

Valentina Tereshkova at an exhibition of Soviet space technology

And acquired hard-to-get fashionable coats.

Trolleybus drivers

And enjoyed life in their own, albeit cramped, living space

MORE PHOTOS from the 1970s available here


Gorbachev's perestroika brought new hopes for the future, and the first sips of freedom changed the image and outlook of Soviet women — their outfits and appearance speak louder than words.

Oversized glasses were a sign of the times

Actress Natalya Belokhvostikova

The music changed too, and the country saw its first rockers

Girls sing The Beatles in a hostel, Leningrad

MORE PHOTOS from the 1980s available here


With the collapse of the USSR, the borders were opened, Russia embraced Western trends, and a mood of total freedom and permissiveness prevailed.

Moscow life.

Women discovered snow-washed jeans, bright leggings, and fishnet tights.

Moscow, 1990. Models after a workout.

Prostitutes were also an unmistakable sign of the “wild 90s”

A prostitute in Moscow, 1991

MORE PHOTOS from the 1990s available here

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