Singer Advertisements in Russia

Russian “З-Girl”

The trademark advertisement of the Singer sewing machine in languages using Latin script was the letter S whose sinuous line was projected onto the figure of a woman sitting at the machine. She became known as the S-Girl in English. In the Russian, "S" became "З", a letter with curves that, however, don't form a single flowing line. What is particularly striking about the Russian trademark, which appeared on the signboards of all Singer stores, is the emphatically pre-modern dress of the woman at the sewing machine. The costume is heavy and extensively beaded, especially the headdress (kokoshnik) requiring its bearer to hold her head erect. The dress lends itself neither to work, nor to the industrial age, and is an oxymoronic representation of labor and class. Instead it is a highly decorative image characteristic of the nationalistic trend in Russian art nouveau that stylized pre-modern fairytales and folklore and was often used in advertisements. Appropriately, the Russian "З-Girl" is using Singer's famed embroidery attachment to make a decorative piece of cloth, not an object of everyday need. (To see examples of Singer embroidery, go to Seamstress: Exhibit of Artistic Embroidery.)

The popular salon painter Konstantin Makovsky was well-known for his idealized historical paintings, including of young boyar women, for example this Young Boyar Woman at the Window (With a Spinning Wheel) from the 1890s. She may be considered a painterly equivalent of the Singer trademark: neither is really working, with the obvious difference that Makovsky's young woman sits at a tool consistent with her historical time period and that we can imagine her putting it to use.