If you've decided to book a trip to Russia, winter is a great time to go – tickets are cheap (compare prices for tickets to Russia), the snowy cities are mesmerizing, the holiday celebrations are in full swing, and the museum line-ups are at their shortest. But, as you may have already realized, it's going to be extremely cold in most Russian cities! Find out how Russian people stay warm during the winter, and get some hints for what to wear to not look like a total tourist:
If you want to blend in with Russian women, put away your North Face puff-ball jacket and find yourself a (faux, second-hand, or not) fur coat – this is one of the most common kinds of overcoats that Russian women wear in the winter. At the very least, though, look for a form-fitting wool coat which is lined with something warm – or at the very very least, a puffy coat which still allows you to have a waistline! Russian women are very fashionable, and even the extreme Russian winters can't stop them from looking their best.
While you're at it, expect to see (the already tall) Russian women wearing heeled boots – yes, in the snow and ice! You can try wearing them yourself, although be forewarned that Russian women practically wear high-heels 365 days a year, so they've probably had a lot more practice than you! If you don't want to stick out with your clunky winter boots, get some elegant knee-high boots (they don't have to be heeled).
You might also be surprised to see Russian women wearing pantyhose and short skirts in the winter, while being bundled up on top. This is probably due to two things: training (as with the heels), and the fact that they do have extremely warm coats. This is not to say that you should be doing the same thing, only to point out that you may also want to invest in a fur hat, a nice scarf, and warm gloves, because keeping your upper-body warm is of utmost importance.
Good news, men! The standards of beauty are not nearly as strict for Russian men as for Russian women. However, that doesn't mean that if you walk down the street in your khaki pants and ski boots, people won't be able to tell you're a tourist. Russian men in the winter mostly wear dark colors and jeans with warm (but again, elegant) boots. It is slightly more acceptable for Russian men to wear a puffy winter coat (and a lot less likely that you will see a Russian man in a winter coat). However, most Russian men stick to wool and shearing-lined leather coats, and again – fur hats! Warm gloves! Scarves!
As in any cold climate, layers are essential for Russian winters. Bring with you warm sweaters as well as warm coats, and cotton shirts to wear underneath. Growing up in the Russian North I used to wear tights under my jeans – and I would really recommend doing that if you're not used to the cold. Don't forget your scarves and hats, and most importantly warm socks and waterproof, slip-proof boots, because I cannot guarantee that the sidewalks will be cleared.
And of course, don't take this advice too seriously – while many people in Russia dress extremely well, and expensively, there are plenty of others who dress for pure practicality – including me. You will never see me sashaying down a Russian street in a mini-skirt and heels in the winter – in fact, I'm probably wearing every item of clothing I own!
Most importantly, don't be afraid of the Russian winter – it's really not as bad as it seems. Just wear plenty of layers and take some roubles with you so you can duck into a café if you get too cold. Enjoy!
By Varia Makagonova