DRESSY OR CASUAL?
What you wear in Russia really depends on the season you’ll be coming in, and what part of Russia you’ll be visiting. Here are some general tips:
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SHOES
Russians walk a lot, and you will do a lot of walking on your trip to Russia. So, make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes. If you’re coming in a rainy part of the year, waterproof shoes are a definite plus. If you’re coming in winter, make sure that the bottom of your boots have good traction. Slipping and sliding on ice is no fun!
LAYER, LAYER, LAYER
Russian weather tends to be fickle. The advice of locals is, “Dress like cabbage”, i.e. “dress in layers.” Bring multiple layers so that you can add or subtract as needed. Also, if you’re coming in the winter, bear in mind that Russian apartments are generally very hot in the winter (centrally-controlled heating, so there’s nothing you can do about the temperature except open a window). Traveling in the Caucasus Mountains can produce extreme weather dips and jumps as well; it can be snowing on Mt. Elbrus in August!
If you spot a person wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and a baggy untucked t-shirt in Russia, it’s almost guaranteed to be a foreigner. Russians dress much more nicely than Americans (and other nationalities) in public. So, bring clothes that you are comfortable traveling in, but that also are dressier than what you might normally wear around town back home. Regardless, be on the lookout for the famous Russian high heels; you will be amazed at how effortlessly Russian women walk in these shoes!
DRESS IN NORTH CAUCASUS
If you’re traveling to the Caucasus, please remember that you are going to conservative, predominantly Muslim republics. In some places, men never wear shorts, and women generally wear long skirts/dresses and headscarves. So, if you are male, bring light-weight pants for summer excursions, and if you are female, bring a long dress/skirt. Generally, foreigners are not expected to wear headscarves, but when visiting religious sites (such as an Orthodox Church or Muslim Mosque), it is important to do so. If you don’t already own a headscarf, it’s a nice souvenir to pick up early on during your trip at a local market.