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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fashioning a Dressy Lexicon

???? ?? ?????????? ?????????: a box pleat skirt

Not long ago, after a friend's birthday party, someone asked me: ?? ??? ???? ???? ?????? (What was Lena wearing?) What I thought was: She had on a low-cut, red velvet dress that was form-fitting in the bodice and then fell loosely to mid-calf. What I said was: ??? ???? ? ???????. (She wore red.)

These unexpected blackouts of language ability will be familiar to every expat. In English I have occasion to discuss dress styles in detail once every five years, but when I need to, I can mentally pull several books on fashion and clothing off the reference shelf in my brain. Alas, that shelf in the Russian part of my brain is empty and covered in cobwebs.

But since the temperatures are soaring, you can't help but think: ????? ?????????! ???? ???????? ????????! (It's spring. Time to update my wardrobe.) Which translates as: ???? ????????? ????????? ??????. (Time to learn how to discuss clothing.)

Armed with a few handy phrases, you set off to your local department store and start pawing through the rack of skirts. There you will find: ????-???????? (A-line skirt), ???? ?? ????????? (pleated skirt), ???? ?? ?????????? ????????? (box pleat skirt), ???? "?? ?????" (bias-cut skirt) -- and even ???? ? ????? ????????? ???????? ? ???????? ????? (skirt with a kick pleat). You find a couple you like and decide to try them on: ????? ????????? (May I try them on?) ??? ? ??? ???????????? (Where is the fitting room?) In the fitting room, you abandon one skirt right away: ? ?? ?????? (I can't get into it.)

Note to self: ???? ?? ????, ???? ??????! (Summer is almost here; time to lose weight.)

You wiggle into a skirt and come out to look in the full-length mirror. Three saleswomen hover around you hopefully. ??? ????? ????????. (It looks great on you.) --???? ?? ??? ????????. (It fits you like a glove.) ???? ????? ??? ?? ??? ?????! (The skirt was made just for you!)

This is nice to hear, but you are not blind. In the mirror you see a dumpy frump in an ill-fitting skirt. You say: ??-?????, ??????. (I think it makes me look fat.) They say: ?? ???! ???????? ????????! (Not at all -- it's very slimming.) You are not convinced. ????? ?? ???????? ?????? ?????????. ?? ??? ????? ????????? ???? ?? ???????? ????. (It's not flattering when it hits the middle of the knee. I look better in skirts that fall to mid-calf.) The saleswomen fawn: ?? ? ??? ????? ???????? ????! (But you have such shapely legs!)

At this point you are already mentally calculating the cost of liposuction and wondering whether the bruising might fade by the May holidays. But the saleswomen won't give up. One says: ????? ????-???? ???????? ?????. (You might lengthen the hem just a little bit.) Another says: ? ???? ??? ?????? ??????? ? ???????, ??? ????? ?????? ?? ??? ??? ??????. (And if you wear tummy-control panties under the skirt, it will fit perfectly, literally "as if you were poured into it"!) The third one pipes up: ????????, ? ?????? ????? ??? ?? ??? ????????. (Or maybe with a half slip it will look fabulous on you.)

Right. You look like a bulldog in a tutu, and nothing short of surgical intervention is going to help. You trudge back to try on something else.

And then you score: perfect fit, right color, and on sale. You come home and call up your best friend: ?????? ????? ????. ??? ?? ???????? ?????, ? ???? ?????????? ??????, ?? ?????? ? ???????. (I bought a new skirt. It's a wraparound skirt with a low waist, made of pale blue silk and falls just below the knee.)

Surgical intervention can wait.

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based interpreter and translator.