Decades of socialism did not allow for much diversity in clothing style, so Russia is now playing catch-up in the fashion game. Recently named the most expensive city in the world, Moscow is trying hard to live up to its reputation with new high end boutiques opening all over the city. Formerly grey wardrobes now rival and outshine the looks of Parisians and New Yorkers. Of course, not everyone can afford the clothes right off the runway, but just as in other cosmopolitan cities, the less expensive brands cater to the folks who want the designer look for less.
Much of what you wear in Moscow will depend significantly on the time of year you are traveling. With a very long and very cold winter, one must be prepared. Fur is not only accepted, fur is encouraged. Whereas sporty North Face parkas might be acceptable in other cold climates, Muscovites go for a chicer, more polished look. Wool and shearling coats are a good option to keep warm. Gloves, hats, and scarves are essential when temperatures dip far below 10 degrees Fahrenheit in an average winter month. While the ladies have a wide array of options (except for in churches, where they are expected to wear headscarves), men traditionally wear wool caps and hats that fit high on the head (no floppy ear covers, sorry guys!). Layering is key. With central heating in most of city, temperature control indoors is minimal and you should be prepared to peel off your big coat once on the metro or inside someone’s home. If you are a guest, it is considered polite to take one’s shoes off to avoid tracking dirt inside the home. Most Russian families have a wide array of slippers (“tapochki”) to keep their visitors’ feet warm. For your outerwear, stay away from light colors. In this bad weather city, one rub up against a dirty car will make your coat filthy.
If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing by foot, be warned. In an effort to keep the roads and sidewalks clear of snow and ice, chemicals and salt are used generously. These harsh substances can wreak havoc on your new leather boots. A good leather cleaner and protectant can save you from the telltale white stains. Despite the slippery conditions, it is common for Russian women to wear high heels in the dead of winter, often with short skirts. Walk fast to stay warm.
If your plan is to travel to Moscow in the spring or summer, the rule of layering still applies. Air conditioning is not as common as in other European cities, so dress to stay cool. That being said, flip-flops will be a dead giveaway that you are tourist; Moscow is nowhere near a beach, and the look reflects that.
Moscow’s dress code doesn’t change much from neighborhood to neighborhood, but the closer you are to the city center, the more expensive and trendy the clothes tend to be. Exceptions to this rule are a couple towns on the outskirts of Moscow, such as Barvikha Village. What the Hamptons are to New York, Barvikha is to Moscow.
In general, the shopping strongly resembles the rest of Europe. However, a couple of stops are must sees for Moscow visitors looking for unique places to shop:
Gum (pronounced Goom) – located just off of Red Square in the center of Moscow, this high-end department store was built in the late 1800s and has a rich history. It is now the home to a range of apparel stores from Zara and Guess to Hermes and Louis Vuitton.
Ismailovski Park – in the northeastern area of Moscow, is a great place to pick up interesting souvenirs and some unique accessories, as well. Vintage jewelry, scarves, watches, and brooches from the Soviet era are available on a modest budget.
Written by Julie Lebedev