Orthodox Women's Fashion Show

OK, I'll admit it. I like clothes. Most of what I get is from the thrift store, but that's OK. I still like to look nice. And appropriate. And modest. My biggest picky-point is that if one googles something like "modest Christian Women's clothing", one often comes up with stuff that looks like it's trying to recapture "Little House on the Prairie".

So, I was thilled to see this:

Recently a fashion show for Orthodox Women's Clothing was held at the Kremlin Palace. According to the article, which I read translated on Babel Fish, this fashion show was very well received.

I am so very amused because this is SO how the women in my parish dress. In America. In a mission parish. Never having been to Russia. (Except most of us are a bit fatter and less pretty than these Russian Supermodels...but still).

I find it interesting, that without a specifically stated code of "how to dress modestly" most tend to gravitate towards the same stuff. And I also find it interesting that it is very close to the stardards of dress that are specifically spelled out in Orthodox Judaism (tznius). Close, but less legalistic. And I find it very nice that there is nary a calico print to be found.

The theme of the fashion show was the 12 feasts, and if you look at the pictures, you can see a reflection of the liturgical colors in the colors of the outfits. It is not uncommon for people to wear blue for feasts of the theotokos, white or light colors for Pascha, etc. For an explanation of the ever-so-complicated color scheme, go here.

Follow the link to check out the pictures. My favorite was this one:

Holy Friday clothing might look like this (most of us, for some reason show up in black):

I also liked the look of this red outfit: It almost looks (shock!) islamic, but to that I just have to say: WE were doing it first!

I was pleased. And amused. I suppose it's healhty to smile at oneself now and again.


John Nicholas said…
This is a joke,right? The "orthodox look" featured in the fashion show isn't all that far removed from the grim, Stalinist factory revolutionary girl look...just much nicer fabrics and some color. Is this is "orthodox" or just Russian? There is a visual paradox here..dowdy fashions cannot repress the sexy, strut-your-stuff attitude of stunning, shoulders-back, chin-up, and chest-out professional models.
It's a war between the girls and the clothes and I cannot tell who is winning.
Emmelia said…
That is so very cool. I too love the blue outfits, all of them!
I love that all the skirt lines are below the knees modest.
You are right about our church dressing like this. I could almost see the faces of some of the younger (and slimmer than us oldies;-) women in those pictures.
Who says modest has to be dowdy?! Never!
Alana said…
John, I think they were serious. Apparently the fashion show was well attended and well received by the local seminarians. BWHAHAHAHA.

I also noticed the weird dissonance between the "strut your stuff" body language and the clothes.

But I still thought the clothes were cool.
Anonymous said…
Hehe this is funny. Of course, there's a dissonance of the fashion attitude and the purpose of the clothing line (modesty), but the outfits ARE lovely!
This one jumped out at me:
what a lovely dress!
H and S said…
Have you read a great book called "it's so you" by Mary Sheehan Warren? It's really, really useful and shows you how to end up with a wardrobe full of stuff that you actually wear, that actually suits you, that sends the message you want to send. It also takes the potluck and guesswork out of shopping/sewing. That's the thing about clothes - no matter what you wear, it sends a message, and that's just a fact we have to live with. So Orthodox fashion makes perfect sense.

Do you wear scarves to church? My sister and I are going along to the Russian Orthodox when we can, and they all wear scarves - we think we might start wearing them too, although we've never worn a scarf on our head in our whole lives, and neither of us are Orthodox ... but we don't want to draw attention to ourselves by not wearing one. I personally would like to respect the tradition of the Church.
H and S said…
Is there any particular way to do one's headscarf? For example see this photo:
I haven't seen any Russian Orthodox women here wearing their scarf like that. It's a kind of 'younger' way to do it, maybe? What exactly is the scarf meant to do?
Alana said…
The Headscarf thing comes from 1 Corinthians 11.

St. John Chrysostom also has a good homily on the subject. http://www.covenanter.org/Attire/Headcoverings/chrysostom.htm

And here's a good link to an aritcle on the subject written by an Orthodox Christian woman: www.dioceseofalaska.org/pdf/angels.pdf

Not all the woman at my parish wear a head scarf. I do, but I dont' judge anyone who does not. We are free in Christ, and it seems that this is (at least here in America) an issue that is left up to individual conscience.

As far as visiting a Russian Church, absolutely plan on wearing a scarf. In some places it is a requirement. You can appropriately tie it under your chin, or wrap a scarf uner your chin and throw the tails over your shoulder, or tie them in back, or you can imitate one of the more modern looks you see. www.tznius.com has a nice scarf-tyeing guide with creative ways to wear a scarf.

Whether you are doing it out of personal conviction, obedience, or just out of respect, it is never inappropriate to wear a scarf in Church.

One note: typically one sees lots of light colored or white scarves in the Russian Churches. Black is more middle Eastern, and there are plenty of Orthodox Christians there who wear black all the time. Here in the USA we often wear something that coordinates with our outfit. But we do try to avoid anything garish, like bright turquoise lace, or vampy scarlet, or anything like that. Keep it neat, and demure, yet beautiful. Different cultures have different tastes, too. I've seen pictures of Russian woman wearing scarves I would never dream of wearing...
John Nicholas said…
In reference to the scarf discussion, keep in mind, that if the Orthodox practice of a woman covering her head in church seem odd to you, recall the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church which universally held the same tradition.
Jennifer F. said…
Alana -

I am so glad to have found this post. I've really been struggling with the idea of covering my head lately: on the one hand, I feel strongly that it's a good thing to do and I am almost positive I'm being called to do it; on the other hand, very few women at my church cover their heads and I don't want it to seem like I'm trying to make a statement (especially that I'm a new convert).

This post has inspired me to maybe find some simple scarves that would coordinate with outfits so that it wouldn't be quite as noticeable as a traditional chapel veil. Thank you!
Anonymous said…
Hi Alana and all,

This is a great conversation. At my church which is OCA with Macedonian background, NOBODY wears a scarf! In the past when a woman would wear a scarf the older Macedonian women would actually confront them and tell them to remove it! That is one of the freedoms they had gained here, and they were offended by it. #1 I don't want any of these old Macedonian women confronting me! And they will! #2 I don't want the "look at her the ultra pious one!" wispered around the church! #3 My priest really feels that we should be relevant to culture in some ways and that this is a custom that is something that we here in America don't do, (I know lots do) so why do it?

It feels like it could cause a problem in my parish that we don't need right. But, I think in some ways it is sad because I think it would be a nice tradition and if I was in a church that was more open I probably would....

Alana said…
I think you are right in that context. The law of love should rule over all.

Although I would say: It IS scriptural and what is so wrong about being pious, as long as one is not showing off?

Is it possible to be more pious than is practiced in one's general surrounding and do so with a pure heart? Seems like someone needs to, otherwise we'd just degenerate to the lowest possible level of practice.
Anonymous said…
You're right - it's funny how most Orthodox women do dress like that give or take a bit.

I know it's bad of me but those modest clothing sites just make me want to run out and buy a leopard print mini skirt!
Anonymous said…
Loved the fashion show! Thanks for sharing. I especially liked your point in being pious and understated. It is a good thing!

kristinsdottir said…
Thanks for blogging this -- yup, it's not quite how most of us would choose to appear most of the time, but it's still interesting! A good Holy Friday to all!
Anonymous said…
Alana, if you truly feel in your heart that this is what God is calling you to do, perhaps you could tell the older women, who confront you that you understand that in their home countries they needed to distinguish themselves from the Muslims and you're sorry that they may have even been forced to cover because of Muslim domination, but that you feel called by God to do this and that it is in obedience and humility that you wish to do so.

On second thought, run it by the priest first and tell him that ultimately you'll abide by his decision. If he says no then wear it at home during prayer.
LisaM said…
found you through kristend... this is a really neat blog, and I'm glad you posted this entry!
Anonymous said…
hi, my name is juliana from st.kitts, i'm married and i wear a head covering all the time, have no problem with women who don't is their choice, well i'm glad to come acroos a site like this , really appreciate it.
Anonymous said…
I am an Orthodox Christian woman who prefers to dress modestly, and I completely agree with John Nicholas' post above. What a scary and ridiculous collection. There is no need to dress in these rags. There are plenty of elegant, class clothes in department and brand name stores, for a woman with taste to choose from - including pretty neck and head scarves.
Alana said…
I happen to like those clothes. Not all of us can afford to shop at department stores. To each her own, I guess. "Glory to God... that's the most important part.
Unknown said…
I am smiling at these photos and comments about how similar the clothing is to Judaic and Islamic orthodox dress. Where do you think they got it from, Eastern Europe!!! They are beautiful and I especially love the more colorful designs. Yes, devout does not have to be dowdy. Thank you!