Fashion Power Plays

In the 18th century Russia there were many clothing reforms that varied among the tsars at the time.  The rulers used laws concerning fashion to change how the nation felt and acted. One tsar was Peter I, who tried to change the nation to model the Western countries by forcing the Russian population to adapt the French style and get rid of the traditional Russian style.  Among these sumptuary laws there was a tax placed on keeping beards.  This ruling caused the people to see Peter I as a tyrant because long beards were an esteemed tradition in Russia.  Banning beards was considered to go against the church, as the beard was seen as a necessity to get into heaven by some of the older generation.  The youth accepted the reforms easier because they thought it made them look more desirable to women.

Another supporter of the French style was Peter’s daughter Elizabeth.  Elizabeth punished any woman who dressed or looked better than her.  She also held masquerades, called “Metamorphosis”,  in which the guest were forced to cross dress.  Elizabeth used theses masquerades to assert her feminine power in a patriarchal society and prove that the gender roles were purely superficial.  In the photo, my roommate Elizabeth dresses as a man, symbolizing the Russian Empress Elizabeth, by posing in a power stance.