As we've mentioned in previous posts, the Russian word for girl, ma'am, lady or waitress is Devushka. Devushka can also be an adjective used to describe the uniquely Ukrainian, hyper-feminine approach to fashion.
Note how I chose the word "hyper-feminine." I could have just as easily used the word "whorish" but I don't want to ruin my reputation for cultural sensitivity. It is the case that many wardrobe choices made by the average Kyiv twentysomething woman give off visual cues that are inextricably linked with streetwalkers in the west. Find me a westerner who denies thinking "I wonder how much she charges?" when a woman in a short skirt, fishnets and stilettos walks down Kryshatik at noon on Sunday and that guy is probably blind.
I will stick to my original word choice - "hyper-feminine" -- to describe Devushka style. "Ho" is a cultural construct to which I will not subscribe. Women who don't cover their heads in Muslim cultures are often believed to be whores, an assumption I find medieval. Along the same lines, if a Ukrainian woman wears a skirt that reveals her tampon string, it's just as medieval of me to assume she's a hooker. She just likes to show off her body. And, she would probably respond that western women dress like men. It's a draw.
Let's discuss the principles of Devushka style.
- There's no such thing as too tight, too sheer, too low cut or too short.
- Shoe angles should be at least 45 degrees, with heels no greater in circumference than an icepick;
- Accents such as ruffles, flounces, bows, puffy sleeves and lace are highly valued;
- Forget any differentiation between day and evening wear. Sequins, sparklies and rhinestones are just as appropriate standing in line at the aptek as they are at the smokin'-est oligarchical night club.
- Colors and fibers that appear in nature are verboten;
- Foundation garments, if they must be worn, should be viewed as accessories. Thongs, if undergarments must be worn, are meant to be seen;
- Intriguing shirts are those with non-sensical English phrases ("Punk It Up Rock Slacker") or coy witticisms ("Will Fuck for Coke")
- Nipplage is in.
The great thing about Devushka style is that it is appropriate for all ages and body types. Don't worry if your crop top reveals stretch marks from two pregnancies and a caesarian scar. Rolls of hipfat should not stop you from donning jeans with a three inch rise. Even drooping boobs want to be free. Though, to be clear, there are a large number of Ukrainian women who can pull off low rise jeans and bandaid skirts splendidly.
Camel Toe at No Extra Charge
I've spent a lot of time thinking about why this fashion is so popular in the former Soviet Union, and perfected in Russia and Ukraine, but nowhere else. Is it a reaction to the drab pallette of the Soviet years, especially of their mothers? Most of the women who dress like this were grade schoolers at best when the wall came down, so I don't think that's it. Don't Ukrianian women, especially professionals, see any downsides to being perceived as a sex object first, a competant employee second or third? Uh, no. That's a whole other post. Are they ever going to outgrow it? Polish women dressed Devushka in the early 90's (and all the men wore white socks with their suits) but now most Polish women's style is indistinguishable from that of any other European woman and you never see a white sock. There's no evidence that the appeal of Devushka is waning here, however.
And don't think that foreigners can't fall into the Devushka trap. Spend enough time here, deprived of shopping options, and a top or a jacket in Metrograd (the mother ship for Devushka style, just like Wet Seal, but not as classy) can start to look "not that bad."
Until your friends say at lunch, "Uh, don't you think that cropped, crocheted sweater is a little Devushka?"