Wool sweater, skinny cords, flat boots. This is what I am wearing today. This will be my uniform for the next 180 days known as The Russian Winter. What will vary from day to day will be the color and thickness of these items, the amount of undergarments that I will layer underneath to stay warm as the temperatures dip to subhuman levels, and, of course, the coat that goes over the whole bundle.

Skirts, blouses, dresses, slacks, even suits – they can all take a vacation. Ditto flats and pumps. Garments I called ‘sweaters’ back in the States – knits with a ¾ sleeve and a deep V-neck – have been put away along with the rest of summer-wear in favor of thick and itchy full-coverage iterations.

In the nearly two years since I moved to Russia, my proper sweater collection has at least quadrupled. Two pairs of walking boots (one for the rain, one for the snow and both lasting me years) have become 10. Two pairs of skinny cords became seven, with bonus 3 pairs of skinny jeans.

Why so many skinny pants, you ask? Because all pants must tuck into boots, of course!

No, you can’t just pop on a nice pair of wool trousers with some sensible flats. They will get ruined by the elements. It doesn’t matter if there’s no precipitation. It doesn’t matter if you’re just running out to the corner store. Once summer ends, Moscow becomes Dirty.

I am not even talking about the oceans of slush that invade the streets from the first snowfall (we had our THIRD flurries of the season this morning, by the way) through May holidays.

The famous Moscow slush. Image credit: sgdfgdf

The famous Moscow slush. Image credit: MosDay.ru.

This is a special kind of Russia-only dirt that is pervasive and insidious, that coats road banks in 5-meter-wide strips even a hundred miles outside of the city, and splatters your garments at least knee-high no matter how much care you take.

Which is why one must always wear skinny pants tucked into tall boots – and preferably some industrial-strength protective gear on top of it all.

In New York I was a ‘dress and tufli*’ kind of girl, year-round. In the winter that meant simply donning a pair of tights under said dress, and throwing on a mink coat over it. Yes, like a good Russian woman making Motherland proud, I wore a fur coat in NYC, from October through March.

A few Christmases ago, in New York.

A few Christmases ago, in New York.

I almost never wear this coat in Moscow. It’s too nice, and Moscow is too dirty. Here, dirt – not even temperature – is my main sartorial consideration for 8 months out of a year. As long as the temperatures stay above -20C, I stick to my vaguely dirt-colored shearling. Dirt is far less apparent on this shearling.  And it comes off more easily.

And Winter 2012, in Moscow (Izmailovo Kremlin).

And Winter 2012, in Moscow (Izmailovo Kremlin).

And those dresses and tufli? Sorry, summer-only. I can wear a different outfit every day during the warm months, and this would still leave at least half of my formerly good-year-round items untouched.  Because from now until May Day it’s all about sweaters, skinnies and boots.


*Tufli is a great Russian word for ‘nice shoes’ – pumps and sandals, heels and flats. Just not sneakers, boots (even nice ones), Keds, flip-flops, and so forth.


  1. Winters in Bavaria come close, but they’re not quite as extreme. Yes, plenty of dirty slush through to March/April. I remember one year, temps fell to -35, but that was exceptional.
    It’s raining here, but temps will be up to 28 degrees at mid-day – quite pleasant 😉

  2. I have a bunch of winter jackets. Like 5 or 6. Last Friday I put on the first one, and in a couple of days I’ll wear the second one. October has just started and winter yet to come — BUT I feel myself like a whore in terms of clothes. And btw — awesome pics from your ex-NYC-era.

  3. oooo! NYC Anna is Fancy Anna! Pretty photos, dear. When we got to Brrrrrussels last year, we had no idea what cold meant when we were packing (mind you, 30C was the average for 3 months in Texas). We had to buy coats the 2nd day we were here…so naive! I quickly learned that your uniform is mine – minus the cords (you, Skinny Minnie!) just regular jeans for me.

    • Oh my gosh, so true – NYC Anna WAS fancy Anna! I used to run around in stilettos, too. And I used to hate on skinny pants, until I realized I cant wear anything else here. Brussels is definitely cleaner, but I remember getting sick on my bday (Oct 25th) there after being totally unprepared for a massive wet snowfall.

  4. You still manage to rock the winter uniform! The photo of you in your shearling coat is so cute and stylish! I remember taking mostransavto buses out to this little village in the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t even see out the windows, they were so coated in the infamous dirty grime! In hindsight I shouldn’t have let myself get talked into buying a pale mint green winter coat!

    • OOOOH I want to see that coat! I have a pair of mint stiletto boots and I sensibly left them in storage in the US. I do love my shearling in the photo, but really, what you see up there is my uniform for fall-winter-spring and I am ALREADY tired of it. Plus, RT not having a dress code for not-on-air people does nothing to motivate me. Esp when for 8 months straight you have to take great care not to touch anything, preferably even air, bc you’ll be covered in ‘winter soot.’

  5. I haaate this weather. I just weep when all of my heels have to go away. I’ve got a dark leopard-y coat which hides various splotches well, but this year I’m convinced I could get away with a white coat. I know it’s a terrible idea, but I CAN’T HELP IT.

    • I am also very prone to spilling things on myself, or rubbing up against dirty things, so even in the US I stayed away from light-colored outerwear. But I have faith in you! Are you wearing the white coat to all your marriage ‘procedures’?

  6. I think I’m just going to wear black for the next 6 -8 months. It’s far too cold for this time of year! You rock winter fashion whatever you do though! I just look like a sullen lump of coal 😉

    • I seriously look exactly the same every cold-weather day though! It’s funny – I started my job in Feb 2012 and were the exact same items in different colors (I buy in bulk) every day till May, and then when it got warm it became like a fashion show. My coworkers literally said, after a few summer weeks: ‘wow, Anna, you dress well?!’

  7. I feel your pain. In the part of England I’m from, winter is pretty mild and when I came over to mainland Europe I nearly died at how cold it gets. No amount of layers is ever enough.

  8. Just read it.
    Sheer joy.
    Someone should write an essay – or a scientific paper – entitled “Moscow dirt: Its origin, composition, space-time variability, and impact on the lives of aboriginals, travelers, and expats.”
    It’s not trivial: It’s a product of Moscow clay soil, plus weathered asphalt, plus finely ground low-quality tires marinated in gasoline and engine oil dripping from 3 mln cars and trucks, plus soot from diesel engines and utilities, plus acid rain as Moscow is on the receiving end of Europe’s exhaust.

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