Before the reign of Peter the Great, Russian fashion mostly consisted of outdated clothing dating all the way back to the middle ages. Russians prided themselves on tradition instead of mimicking the west, separating themselves from western culture and fashion. However, the old fashions were not acceptable to Peter the Great and when he became czar he sought to modernize Russia by connecting to the west and adopting western style clothing in the 1700s. It became no longer acceptable for nobles to sport beards; traditionally the beard was considered a symbol of manliness in Russian culture and the same type of view would be later adopted in the Victorian era, but during Peter the Great’s time, it was considered uncouth for men to sport beards. Therefore, Peter the Great forced nobles to cut their beards and those who did not were forced to pay a beard tax to keep their facial hair. Both women and men had to attend court in western style dress.
For women, the traditional sarafana, a traditional style of Russian dress of all women was discarded among upper classes but lower class women continued to wear them. Some traits of Russian fashion remained in the new western style including the kokoshniks which was a headdress that went with the sarafana. The kokoshniks were for all classes of women and this was one garment in Russian fashion which remained. Conservative nobles were not pleased with the new style of dress, but it benefited Russia later down the road when it came to contact with the rest and Catherine the Great would later open a wider door for the west to enter Russia.