European Fashion in Russia and Igor Stravinsky, “The Rite of Spring”

Fashion in Russia has not had many changes, but when it does change, the change is drastic. Before Peter the Great came into power, there was little to no influence from the West on Russia. Peter decided to create a new westernized style of clothing for the Russian people. The clothing was more revealing and tighter than what the people were used to. For the men, he also required them to shave their beards .
In the summary about the primary source of “European Fashion in Russia,” when Peter the Great commanded the people in Russia to convert into western European clothing, most of the people were not very supportive with Peter the Great’s idea in wearing westernized clothing because they think it is considered sinful and immoral to wear because they usually covered their bodies when clothing. But there is a reason why Peter the Great changes the dress code in Russia is because he wanted to encourage his people that they are a part of the European country and westernization in Moscow, he thought that dressing up as a European means essentially becoming part of a European country. The military in Russia wear European uniforms in the empire, including the upper-class who started to wear westernized clothes in their estates, and the peasants continued to wear the old slavophile tradition. While fashion changed in Europe, it continued to change in Russia. Russia kept up with the new Westernized styles because without it there would be no fashion in Russia.

“The Rite of Spring” is a ballet written by Igor Stravinsky in 1913. The ballet was written for the 1913 Paris Season. The ballet is seen as being influential, scandalous, and controversial at the same time. It includes detailed costumes, intense choreography, and a thought provoking soundtrack that keeps you on edge the whole time. It also includes pagan sacrifices. At first the ballet faced hard backlash from the crowd due to mistakes from the opening night, but eventually it turned into one of the most influential pieces of work from the 20th century. 

Questions:

  1. From the view of a slavophile, can you explain why Russian fashion kept up with the European/Western look and did not change to a more Eastern look? Does this make Russia a Western country or just heavily influenced from the West?
  2. What does fashion hold in Russian society for the lower and upper class? What are the differences, does fashion really separate the classes?
  3. Does fashion have anything to do with revolutions in Russia? Pg 121, brief mention of Lenin’s fashion.
  4. In the ballet, the opening music creates a somber, sneaky environment. It also keeps you on edge trying to figure out what is going to happen next. (6-6:45) What was the composer trying to relate with the music in comparison to the theme of the ballet?
  5. The first scene of the ballet is very tribal. The costumes of all of the characters, mainly the women, are sort of native like. (9:45ish) What do the costumes throughout the ballet say about what kind of country Russia is? Does it have more of a slavic view, western view, or just a view of their own.
  6. Around minute 18:00 an old man appears and he becomes the center of the people. Everyone dances around him, and causes chaos while he stands in the middle and looks confused. Is he some sort of pagan prophet coming to direct the people, a tribal elder, or a foreshadowing of the development of Christianity in Russia? 
  7. The last scene of the ballet includes essentially a dance to the death. The woman (whom we can assume is a pagan) is killed, and carried off by the animals that were surrounding her. Does this symbolism the end of paganism in Russia, and the end of Mongol influence on the Russian people? 

9 Replies to “European Fashion in Russia and Igor Stravinsky, “The Rite of Spring””

  1. 2. For the lower classes, fashion is synonymous with function in that the European fashions were not feasible for a laborer. Page 121 reveals that the peasants adhered to the modern day fashion decree to a point, but retained old fashion styles to increase the comfortability and usability of their dress. An example of peasants blending fashion styles can be seen on page 123. Peasant women adhere to the Orthodox tradition of covering their hair, but do so with a European style scarf. Fashion works to separate the classes in many ways. The traditional dress worked to express religious beliefs, modesty, and practicality. All of which were abandoned in the European fashion. The attributes of the traditional dress were unimportant to the nobility. Their desire to be viewed as European or affluent far outweighed their desire to be pious.

  2. 5. The costumes during the performance reveal that the peasants subscribed to a slavic style of dress. The male performers wear a loose fitting tunic that is adorned with a red pattern on the edges. The costume is contrasted by the brightly colored costume of the female dancers. The costumes are equally modest and include a pattern. The costumes sway from the traditional dress slightly by leaving the women’s hair uncovered.

  3. 3. I think it is a bold claim to assume that the fashion helped or hurt the revolutionary movements. I think Lenin did this so as to legitimize himself to the Western world to give the illusion that he was like a prime minister or president. It gives him a clear distinction from a king or a tsar because he is neither, he is the father of the soviet union. So no, I do not think that it impacted the revolution but i think it helped present the proper image in the aftermath.

  4. 3. I don’t think that fashion has a direct influence on revolutionary thought. It would be better to refer to it as an indicator of what kind of revolutionary an individual may be. In Lenin’s case, he is pushing a Western idea, socialism, and thus wears a western suit. A person who believed in, say, a return to Russia’s roots, would more than likely wear traditional Russian dress.

  5. Regarding questions 3, western style clothing was adopted by the vast majority of people in Russia, especially the working class. I believe Lenin dressed in this clothing not to represent western culture but to show that he is the new leader of the proletariat which replaced the embellished Tsar.

  6. In response to question two I think there was a clear visual class divide that can be viewed through fashion. This can be traced back to the Tsarina Elizabeth who largely implemented Western fashion and art within the upper class. Whereas the peasantry largely would wear a mix of traditional Russian and Western clothing the upper class and nobility would only wear Western styles.

  7. In response to question five I thought this was very interesting and struggled to understand why they had on clothing that largely signaled as an Eastern country however I do be that it does fit. I believe that they must be attempting to display Russia as an Eastern country.

  8. In reference to question 3, I do not think that revolutions influence the way of dress. I believe culture influences the way of dress. In regards to Lenin’s dress of a suit and tie, a western type of dress, was indication of influencing western ideals.

  9. To answer question six, I believe the old man was a mutually respected tribal prophet. I came to this idea due to his ability to walk into the center of chaos and create balance and peace among the group. I am not sure if the different colored dress and costumes symbolized different types of ethnic groups, but even so he was able to create peace among them.

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