Monday, June 29, 2015

Notes on Fashion in Georgia

If you read accounts of people who traveled to Tbilisi over the last two decades, one word overwhelms descriptions of clothing- BLACK. 

See this Moscow Times article from 2002.

In 2015, however, fashion is evolving. Tbilisians still love their black, to be sure. Particularly in cooler weather, black is chic, slimming, and effortlessly cool. In black, it's easy to evoke the stereotypical characteristics of the post-Soviet Georgian woman: beautiful, classy, disinterested, aloof, and too good for you. 

I have not, however, been surprised by the amount of black clothing here. I wouldn't have noticed any higher propensity for black than in the states if I hadn't been specifically looking for it. There are three main categories of black-wearers that, to the uninformed traveler might stand out as excessively black:

1. Widows 
Including old women begging, who are also probably widows. In fact, most older women are widows, due to men's much lower life expectancy- in 2008 it was 79 for women (not bad) but only 69 for men. Add to that the stresses and dangers of life in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Georgia, including mandatory military service (in the last 80 years- WWII, Afghanistan, Georgian Civil War, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russo-Georgian War, NATO missions in Afghanistan and Iraq), economic crises, political uncertainty, alcoholism and drug use...etc. 
woman praying on the
metro in typical widow attire
I see significantly more old men here than in St. Petersburg, but it is still far below the number of old women I see daily.
The traditional Georgian custom for a woman who has lost a child or husband, sometimes even a cousin or nephew if they were particularly close, is to wear black in mourning for a certain period of time. Sometimes it's a few weeks, a year or two, or occasionally (especially with older women) for the rest of her life, remaining forever in mourning. 
In modern Tbilisi this custom has largely fallen out of fashion, and it is mostly old women you see in mourning clothes, but in some villages younger women still follow the practice as well.
Some Georgians think it is crazy for a woman to remain in mourning for long periods of time, resigning herself to solitude and black robes, but others see remarriage as disgraceful, and respect for the dead as the utmost priority. 


2. Hot young women
These women have their fingers on the pulse of fashion. Weather conditions matter far less than style- these girls are hot in every sense of the word. In general, women in the former Soviet Union place great importance on physical appearance, wearing makeup, high heels, and tight jeans even to run to the corner grocery at 7 am. If you don't look appropriately made up at work, expectations of your performance may be lower. At the gym, most women seem to take as much time post-workout showering, getting dressed, doing their makeup, and primping in the mirror as they did actually working out. 
Black is the new black.

3. Men
Men like wearing black. I don't have any insight into this. It's probably because it's effortless. 
I mostly see guys in black t-shirts hanging out on the street. 
In the office, people dress in normal western business attire of varying colors...if any Georgian men read this and can add something, please do. 

Some other fashion observations... 

I know Tbilisi is more conservative than where I live in the US, so I didn't bring my most low cut tops. That was probably a good idea, but more because it's just not the style. Women generally replace revealing cuts with revealing fabrics...I've seen sheer and outright see-through tops all over the place, supposedly in favor of simply removing that fabric altogether as is typical in the states. Perhaps surprisingly, skirts are about as short and tight as they are in the states for a night out. Not quite as provocative as in St. Petersburg, but high heels are essential for a night out, and showing off your legs is pretty normal. 
(one note: "going out" in Tbilisi is interesting, in part because there are way more men than women at most bars/clubs)

There is an odd trend of vests going on right now. I can't really explain why people think this is a good or even functional look. It is HOT outside (high 90s F, mid-high 30s C), yet I still see women throwing these vests on over their perfectly good stand-alone outfits. At first I thought it was a grocery store uniform...these vests are generally 3-4 inches longer than normal shirt length, sleeveless, with no buttons or anything on the front. They have no structure, seem to be cotton, and are generally brightly colored- green, blue, yellow, and black are popular. I saw a black-red reversible one yesterday. I think they might dress an outfit up, because I saw a woman wearing one at the theater, but you can really throw them over anything...I can't explain this.

Dark lipstick. I love it. I just bought some. I can't wait to try it out and see if I look more like a local! For example:
Georgia's (really kick ass) 2015 ESC entrant, Nina Sublatti

the ad for the actual lipstick I just bought

1 comment:

  1. I learn so much from your posts .... Keep them coming :)