Starting from when most of Ukraine was part of czarist Russia, through an early and late Soviet period, the chaotic 1990s and finally eclectic modernity, women’s clothing has undergone more than one revolution – sometimes strongly dependent on economic class, other times not so much.

The ascetic Soviet period pushed women into the art of sewing their own clothes and fishing out foreign shoes and dresses, often sold on the black market. The fight to be fashionable is one explanation why women in post-Soviet countries usually dress up for any occassion, even when they go shopping for groceries.

Czarist Russia, 1900s


In 1900, urban fashion in Ukraine followed European trends. Belts and long pearl necklaces were must-have acessories. As seen in woman’s portrait made in Kherson in 1902, hourglass corsets had their swan song. Dresses were giving way to creme skirts and white blouses with lace decorations. 


Early communism, 1920s


Soviet fashion in the 1920s was influenced by the New Economic Plan, a last breath of free commerce before the long drought of Soviet times. At that time, a stylish Kyiv woman would have a short hairstyle, low-waist dresses of soft fabrics and, of course, hats. 

Middle and late communism, 1960-1970s


In the 1960s and 1970s, the feminine look came back to women’s fashion after the post-war years of scanty clothes. The waist was highlighted.


Dresses went floral, often with boat necklines. And still, Soviet fashion remained much more ascetic than one in Europe and U.S. It is expecially notable in famous photo of Nina Khrushchova, wife of USSR secretary general Nikita Khrushchov, standing near chic Jacqueline Kennedy during official visit, wearing simple jacket and no hat. 

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The 1970s also brought fashionable suede and leather jackets, plaid skirts and chunky sweaters. Wooden clogs and platform shoes were in style together with open-toe sandals. Jeans were loved by many, but weren’t officially welcomed, seen as a borrowing from the capitalistic West. The black market was flourishing, but foreign clothes sold at enormous prices. A pair of jeans was available for 120-180 rubles, an engineer’s monthly salary.


Post-Soviet, 1990s


After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, open borders resulted in a flood of all things Western, including fashion trends that were no longer forbidden and inaccessible. This created a fashion mess, which included mini skirts, leggings, huge shoulders, leather jackets, oversized sweaters and banana pants. Soviet pop stars of the time, like Strelki girl band, are giving good examples of what the fashion was like. Synthetic materials, plastic jewelry and metal chains were in favor. White Adidas sneakers were a must-have, and since markets were flooded with cheap goods from Turkey and China, many Ukrainians ended up wearing Abibas and Adidos, instead of the real brand. Hairstyles were dominated by something called “explosion at the pasta factory.” Makeup was glaring and colorful.

Fashion nowadays


In the new millenium fashion grew less wild. Access to information about world fashion trends and the ability to buy clothes online gave Ukrainian women many possibilities. 



They also became more refined, subtly mixing professional clothing with a casual style, and smartly combining colors and texture. Accessories increased in importance, with much attention paid to handbags, sunglasses, jewelry and, of course, shoes – from high heels to Ugg boots. Flats and wedge shoes are getting much attention. 

Kyiv Post staff writers Elena Pashkovskaya and Anastasia Vlasova can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] 

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