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About Wedding Dress of Russian Brides
January 29, 2008 17:46


Wedding garments in Old Rus’ used to be very colourful, the red being the major wedding colour. White was considered the colour of sanctity and was not used in festivities. In many regions the bride had two wedding gowns: one to wear before the marriage service and the other to put on after it. The first one was very simple, modest and even mournful: in some places the bride was even wearing black, including a black wedding veil. The second one was always of red colour symbolizing joy.

A wedding dress consisted of a sarafan (pinafore dress) and a blouse put on underneath. However, the same was with everyday garments. What made the wedding dress peculiar was its trimming first of all. The underblouse was decorated with rich embroidery of ornaments depicting leaves, berries, roosters and other birds. Birds being the symbol of the good were a favourite motive of embroidery in the Old Rus’.

 In many Russian provinces the blouses had sleeves up to two meters long, with special holes for hands. Such extremity was due to the old belief that the bride and the bridegroom were not to touch each other with naked arms. The pinafore was put on over the blouse; for a long time a tradition demanded that the bride sewed her dress and trimmed it with embroidery and beads with her own hands.

The wedding headwear of Russian brides descended from flower wreaths (the oldest decoration) and in the 11-14th century it was a ribbon or a metal headband encircling the forehead and fastened at the back of the head. The hair was left loose or did up in two plaits. Later kokoshnik came to use as a wedding headdress.

In the northern regions of Russia the bride was wearing a crown strewn with round beads made of gold threads. The folks wished the newlyweds to have as many children as many beads the bride was having on her crown.

Till the 16th century neck bands of gold, silver, bronze or iron were used as accessories. Later on the brides came to wear pendants attached to the headdress, as well as necklaces of pearls and turquoise beads. Turquoise was also often embedded into the wedding rings since it was considered the symbol of fidelity.

 If the bride was from the princely family she was to be wearing a mantle of heavy brocade embroidered in gold. In the 15th century noble brides had to walk up to the altar in brocaded dresses embroidered in pearls and trimmed with fur. Such a gown could weight up to 15 kilos!

In the 16-17th cc the tradition to be wed wearing a sarafan and a kokoshnik remained, yet the colour was no more obligatorily red.

In the early 17th century Peter the Great came out with ordering entire Russia to follow the European fashion. However, the traditional Russian wedding dress lasted in villages up to the 19th century and somewhere even until the revolution of 1917.

Actually, from the 18th century the Russian wedding fashion kept abreast with the European one. Russian empresses got wedded wearing rococo dresses, some of which can be seen today in the expositions of the Armoury Chamber in the Kremlin and some other museums.

Neither the Empire style was omitted in Russian fashion. Evening and wedding gowns followed this style until the war with Napoleon in 1812. In the mid 19th century French wedding dresses with crinolines, and corsets embroidered in gold, silver and pearls, and trimmed with abundant laces became popular in Russia.

 Keeping pace with Europe ended with the revolution of 1917, when church marriage service was cancelled and replaced with Civil Registry Offices. The newlyweds came to register their marriages wearing everyday clothes. It was only in the period of the New Economic Policy (1921-1928) that some sort of a wedding gown appeared again.

In the hard 1930s, 40s and 50s there did not exist anything like a wedding gown, though some girls of fashion would sew their wedding dresses of some light fabric themselves. But the majority of brides went to the Civil Registry Offices wearing ready-made many-coloured or one-colour dresses.

In the 60s Soviet brides, just like European ones, would put on small hats with a wedding veil. The wedding pictures of the 1970s show brides wearing rather modest white straight dresses trimmed with some laces, and unpretentious white wreaths and veils on their heads.

The 1980s and the post-Perestroika period saw the appearance of first wedding gowns from overseas available in Russia. Nowadays a Russian bride can choose any kind of fanciful wedding dress to her liking.


Look also:


On Russian Wedding Traditions of the Past



Tags: Russian Traditions Traditional Russian Dress Russian Wedding   

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