Why Ukraine May Have the World’s Most Stylish Schoolkids

Need some pert and pretty back-to-school inspiration for this year? Look to Eastern Europe, specifically Kiev, Ukraine. Here, well-heeled children congregate outside of schools for the First of September. The holiday comes from the Soviet Union, once declared the “Day of Knowledge,” and traditions are still celebrated even in now-capitalist Ukraine. Children dress to make a stellar first impression in starched collars, cradling bouquets of stall-bought flowers for teachers, patiently waiting for the “first bell” that will mark the beginning of the school year. Typically, the attire is uniform: Streets are dotted with cherubic girls in plaid jumpers, pressed white shirts, and of course, fist-sized hair bows. Boys aren’t as embellished and usually sport a plain black suit.

Though the holiday hails from the closed-off Soviet era, there are fun saccharine jolts of Western current culture to be seen. In Kiev, pink appeared to be this year’s trend: An image shows one young girl in a checked uniform peering at her hot pink case–clad smartphone, while another in white tights and a black skirt carries a cotton candy pink backpack—one-third her size—with a cartoon princess on it. The sweet hue even permeates the beauty world: A girl in a polished white button-down sports two fishtail braids that are dip-dyed in a Pepto pink color, worthy of an A+.

Here, see how Odessa-based photographer Vitalik Melnikov captured a stylish first day of school in Kiev.

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