Dressing for the Occasion

Adopting and Resisting Western Dress Under Peter the Great


  • Sarah Samuelson UAlberta




Peter the Great, Russia, Sartorial Reforms


This paper explores the importance of clothing to the Russian population during the reign of Peter the Great. As part of his sweeping transformations, Peter Alekseyevich mandated that the Russian people begin dressing in Western styles so that they may better align themselves with their Western European counterparts. Many analyses of Peter the Great focus on the economic reforms, and in turn overlook the sociocultural aspects that facilitated the success of many of his projects. Despite the autocratic power of the Tsar, the Russian people were tied to their traditional garments, and were faced with a difficult choice; to follow the personally expensive requests of Peter I, or to risk their status and retain traditional Russian values. The sartorial reforms of Peter the Great implicated more than just clothing, rather they were about religious piety, masculinity, changing social status, and growing divisions between ranks.