The Miniskirt, Ivanovo, Russia

In 2010 when I visited Moscow, superficially, I noticed how many women wore miniskirts. For Russians, it is a common sight but it can be said that anywhere in the world a Russian women walking down the street will turn heads as this specific stereotype of appearance exist.

I received the opportunity to choose a project for “Expedition G20” I thought this was a perfect time to explore the social and psychological reasons behind the miniskirt and the role women feel they play in Russian society.

Ivanovo was selected for the project as traditionally it has been called the textile capital of Russia. Since most textile workers are women it has also become known as “The City of Brides”. In 2000’s textile factory in Ivanaovo were closed.

In a Bloomberg Report (2008) it is noted :

Since the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Russia’s population has dwindled 4.1 percent to 142.2 million. Unless fertility rates improve, the population may plunge to 128 million by 2025, the Washington-based World Bank said.

By contrast, births in the Ivanovo region jumped 7.8 percent last year; four times the pace of 2006, according to national statistics. The number of second children in families rose by a record 24 percent, more than double the Russian average.

With the death rate declining and the outflow of people reversed, city officials expect the population will stop shrinking this year for the first time since the Soviet era. Ivanovo achieved the turnaround by making the most of its biggest asset: women.

To encourage them to stay and raise children, the city has doubled the number of subsidized home loans for families, added 1,000 kindergarten spaces in two years, and built a new maternity hospital, says Deputy Mayor Igor Svetushkov.

`We’re not calling ourselves the `City of Women,”’ Svetushkov says. A bride is a `partner for life’, a symbol of the family. We’d like to tell people to come here to find their happiness.”

On arriving in Ivanovo I was taken to meet Mizonova Natalia Grigoryevna, Head of Department of Textile Design to find out if there was really a deeper meaning behind wearing a miniskirt.

“In Russia the situation is like this; if we take ten women we will have only two men suitable for normal relationships  because we will have one who takes drugs, one who drinks, one in prison, one who is gay and so on and so forth. And so the total amount of men suitable for normal relationships will be just two for ten women and in this respect a miniskirt becomes a kind of weapon, a weapon of survival. So if you wear it, so your chances are higher in this struggle for men.”

I wanted to find a diverse range of women from all walks of life who loved and wore miniskirts. Women were found for this project through social media networks,  friends , acquaintances and local photographers of the two women that worked closely with me.

Through the interviews I conducted with each women I photographed it became apparent that the role of women have changed in Russian society specifically in the workplace. Women have many more responsibilities, however, difficult on a financial level for women to remain independent on their own.

The mini skirt is seen by most of the women interviewed as something that brings comfort and beauty, and allows women to hold onto their feminine identity, which they strongly acknowledged. It is also used as a weapon by women who are aware of the power it creates in drawing attention from the opposite sex to themselves. Having a family is a priority to many women in Ivanovo therefore the miniskirt can be seen as an initial way of attracting a partner for life.