What You Need To Wear Teaching Abroad In Russia

Back in the day, I was pretty fashionable.  In fact, “back in the day” wasn’t that long ago.


L to R: six years ago, four years ago, three years ago

Back in the day, I used to lie in bed at night thinking about the clothes in my walk-in closet as I planned what I would wear the next day.

Sometimes I would plan my outfit around a pair of shoes I wanted to wear or an new item of clothing I hadn’t yet worn or something I hadn’t worn in a long time.

Then I spent last year in an unstructured working and living situation that had no standards when it came to dressing except to not show too much skin.

Because of the environment, even vaguely dressy attire would have been overdone, so my standards changed and my daily kampung fashion consisted of flip flops and whatever combination of t-shirts and pants or skirts didn’t clash too much.

A good day was when they actually matched.  I didn’t have a lot of good days.

The other day, I found myself standing in front of my wardrobe and contemplating what to wear.

My school doesn’t have a written dress code but we’re all mature and responsible grown-ups who are working in a professional environment so we all dress appropriately, even if we’re wearing jeans.

As I perused my closet and mulled over my options, a feeling of pleasure washed over me.

It felt really good to be putting a conscious effort into my appearance for work again.

Isn’t it funny, the little things that can bring a person a moment of happiness?

Through autumn I’ve been trying to wear the three skirts that I brought with me as much as possible because, come winter, I won’t be able to wear them at all.

One of the reasons, of course, is because it will be too cold to wear them outside, even with thermal tights and thick hosiery.

But mainly it will be because once winter gets here, along with our heavy coats we’ll all be wearing ski pants over our regular clothes.

Putting on ski pants over a skirt is clearly ridiculous and since I have no plans to carry a change of clothes to school then run off to the bathroom to change when I get there, I’ll put away my skirts and wear only pants when winter gets here.

Meanwhile, I’m back to sometimes lying in bed at night planning my outfit for the next day.

Mostly this is because I’m taking pride again in how I present myself at work but it’s also because I now have far fewer clothes to mix and match than I did back in the day when I had a walk-in closet.

I have to make the clothes work for me because I’m not planning to go buy a bunch of new clothes while I’m here.

My shoe options are even more limited but I’m working with what I have, as well.

The shoes I have now are nowhere near the level of fashion that I used to wear just a short few years ago.

Four or six inch name brand platform heels were my daily footwear then but those hardly seem appropriate for a working teacher who spends long stretches of time on her feet for five or six days each week.

Besides that, my style changed two years ago when I became unwilling to give myself corns and ingrown toenails for the sake of cute shoes.

I’m still about style but I’m also about comfort now so if a pair of shoes don’t meet both of those criteria, I’m not even considering them.

I brought six pairs of shoes with me, including my hiking boots, a pair of dressy flats and my super comfy Keds-style Payless sneakers that I always wear for long journeys.

By the way, my super comfy Keds-style Payless sneakers are included in my school shoes rotation because, hallelujah, wearing sneakers with office wear is a thing here.

In fact, I’ve seen exactly two people wear heels in the six weeks since I’ve been here; everyone else wear trainers or practical flats of some kind to work.

At least, they do at my workplace.  I even went to the Chinese market near the outskirts of town and bought another cheap pair of knock-off trainers so now I have four shoes that I wear to school.

An interesting observation that I’ve made is that people sometimes wear the same outfit three or four days in a row.

This startled me the first time I saw it because in fashion-conscious Jamaica, nobody would be caught dead wearing the same outfit twice in one month, much less back to back in the same week.

People would laugh them to scorn; false pride at work.  Not so here.  There are practical reasons for it.

Firstly, except in the summer, it’s cool or cold here.  Nobody sweats, therefore, nobody is sweating out their clothes.

Secondly, most people live in apartments and washing machines are tiny, guys.

On top of that, people don’t have driers.  They hang their laundry on drying racks that are positioned over a radiator or a bathtub.

Practically speaking, then, you can only – and really only need to – do small batches of laundry at a time.

As for me, I definitely wear the same pieces to work more than once in a week but I mix them up and never repeat the same exact outfit in the one week.

I’m not sure if that’s false pride or if it’s my desire be a little creative with my clothes coming back to life.

Anyway, despite wearing trainers to work and wearing the same clothes more than once in a week, I feel like a veritable fashion plate now compared to how I spent last year.

Quite unexpectedly and pleasantly, I’ve been receiving the occasional compliment from various colleagues and my even supervisor said to me one day, “I like your style.”

Fashionably speaking, I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to where I was before three or so years ago but it sure feels good to be where I am now.


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