The Empire's New Clothes

A History of the Russian Fashion Industry, 1700-1917

Christine Ruane

View Inside Format: Cloth
Price: $80.00
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In 1701 Tsar Peter the Great decreed that all residents of Moscow must abandon their traditional dress and wear European fashion.  Those who produced or sold Russian clothing would face “dreadful punishment.” Peter’s dress decree, part of his drive to make Russia more like Western Europe, had a profound impact on the history of Imperial Russia.


This engrossing book explores the impact of Westernization on Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries and presents a wealth of photographs of ordinary Russians in all their finery. Christine Ruane draws on memoirs, mail-order catalogues, fashion magazines, and other period sources to demonstrate that Russia’s adoption of Western fashion had symbolic, economic, and social ramifications and was inseparably linked to the development of capitalism, industrial production, and new forms of communication.  This book shows how the fashion industry became a forum through which Russians debated and formulated a new national identity.

Christine Ruane is director of graduate studies and professor of history at the University of Tulsa.

“Books which can show convincing pictorial evidence of this (topic) are few and far between…But Ruane has set the balance straight, delving enthusiastically into all kinds of representative material…(a) superbly written text.” - Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post

"This fascinating book by an American history professor draws on historic fashion magazines, mail-order catalogues and memoirs to document Russia's transition from the ubiquitous wearing of traditional dress to the wide-scale adoption of Western fashion, as decreed by Czar Peter the Great in 1701. A nation changes identity along with its clothing."—Toronto Globe & Mail (2009 Gift Books Guide: History)

"Empire's New Clothes is an insightful history of how the production of clothes and the consumption of fashion have been interrelated with other changes in Russia."—Louise McReynolds, Slavic Review

Winner of the 2009 Heldt Prize for the Best Book in Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian Women's Studies, given by the Association of Women in Slavic Studies.

Chosen as one of the Best 100 Books of 2009 by the Toronto Globe & Mail

Received Honorable Mention for the 2010 Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History, sponsored by the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and awarded by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.
ISBN: 9780300141559
Publication Date: May 19, 2009
276 pages, 9 x 11
70 b/w + 50 color illus.