Hello my fashion tsarinas and tsars in training!
Today, I will be introducing a topic about a specific garment that is famous in Russian culture. It is the scarf/shawl (sha-rf/шарф) or kerchief/head-covering (pla-t-Ok/платок). This is can be a subtle or bold look that has been in Russian or Eastern European fashion as early as the 16th century. Additionally, Soviet and post-Soviet fashion have perpetuated this vibrant head-covering and scarf style well into the modern-day.
Originally, the traditional head-covering (platok) was introduced around the time in which the Eastern Orthodox Church had a large influence. Although the church was founded in 988 AD in Russia, it is important to note that customs weren’t adopted until later. The church was a large influence on culture and the way men and women conducted themselves, this included their dress. The dress-code primarily called women to cover their heads before entering into a church or a monastery. Early Christians read 1 Corinth. 11:5, which states, “every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” (“Women’s Headcoverings”). As a result, women wore the platok not only in the church (the presence of the Lord), but in public to show her obedience and humility to God. Another reason the platok stood the test of time is because of its convenience. If one is working, this garment will keep your hair out of the way and prevent it from being damaged. Additionally, this look can conceal your hair, perfect for those days when one doesn’t want to clean or style their hair (this is my personal favorite reason).
For modern-day use and appeal, the Soviet Union continued to encourage the platok or
sharf combination. As a side note, even if church was not officially practiced during the Soviet period, having a platok was functional to last the cold and frigid winters, which we all know Russians have successfully conquered.
During the Stalinist era, the functional appeal of platki (plural version of platok) was emphasized. Things such as “petty tutelage” was a contemporary Soviet term for administrative micro-management into the daily and personal affairs of
the citizenry and the bureaucrats desired to control people’s fashion (Fitzpatrick, 33-34). Therefore, such platki were a practical solution to keep women’s hair
up while working in the factory, industry or on the farms. This micro-management of the public’s dress had its advantages as society was learning culture and hygienic practices. During the Khrushchev Era (1960s), magazines like Woman Worker (Работница) or Peasant Woman (Крестьянка) frequently displayed women wearing platki, which matched their outfits throughout the day.
As one watches the acclaimed classic Moscow doesn’t Believe in Tears (Москва слезам не верит), they will see Katya (the main character) wears her platok while at work and changes into another platok that suits her outfit of leisure. This emphasis on different outfits was originally designed to promote cleanliness and well-dressed individual.