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July 11, 1967: Russian Dressing

In the spirit of Russian Fashion Week, WWD takes a look back at a three-week tour fashion editor June Weir took of the Soviet Union in '67.

In the spirit of Russian Fashion Week, which closes tomorrow, WWD takes a look back at a three-week tour fashion editor June Weir took of the Soviet Union in 1967. The five-part series made its debut on July 11 — and shows just how far Russian style and luxury have come.

Weir began with a detailed account of her arrival from Finland’s Helsinki Airport to Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg. “As your plane lands in Russia, two uniformed policemen come aboard the Finnair plane,” she wrote. “One takes your passport and visa, hands it to the other officer who stuffs all this information into a lumpy briefcase. Later, as you travel throughout Russia, you get used to the idea of giving up your passport and visa — not only at entry, but at every hotel, every city in the U.S.S.R.” She went on to describe the potpourri of passports — from France, China, the U.K. — she often had to sift through to find her own. “But you do get it back,” Weir assured the reader.

Cleanliness was a major plus, she discovered. Everyone made a concerted effort not to litter, and everywhere were “hundreds of women with twig brooms [sweeping] the streets.” The fashions, on the other hand, left much to be desired. “Their clothes look absolutely dull,” Weir reported, “and years behind the times. You won’t see a single Russian girl wearing a thigh-high mini-skirt….Even the teenagers dress in a matronly way: shapeless sweaters, baggy skirts, often no stockings (or footlets) worn with open-toed shoes, big handbags in imitation leather….You have to look hard to find a girl or woman attractively dressed.” It was more of the lackluster same at the resort town of Yalta on the Crimean coast. “As a matter of fact,” Weir noted, “one American wearing a pink, blue and yellow striped Arnel T-shirt dress was frowned upon by Russian women as she left the Oreanda Hotel. They simply do not wear bold color combinations.”

The beach, however, was a whole other matter. “The brighter, the better,” was the paper’s report here — vibrant oranges, reds, blues and turquoises brightly dotted the sandy landscape. “Typical of the contradictory Russian scene,” continued Weir, “is the way heads turn on the street if a foreign visitor wears her skirts an inch or so above her knee. Yet Russian women on the beach think nothing at all of exposing as much of their bodies as possible.” And as for the Rubenesque figures present, Weir didn’t hold back. “Borscht, blinis and black bread — what that Russian diet has done to those Russian women,” she remarked. “And it spreads before your eyes on a Russian beach.”

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