Chronicles first mention it under the year 1376, and since that time it was worn until well into the 20th century. It is today worn as folk costume for performing Russian folk songs and folk dancing. Plain sarafans are still designed and worn today as a summer-time light dress.
It was the dress worn by peasant girls and women in the central and northern part of Russia until the 20th century. Russian women from the upper and middle classes stopped wearing traditional Russian costume in the 18th century, during Peter the Great's modernization of Russia, apart from the kokoshniks as part a court dress (although the clothing style of Russian aristocrats differed greatly from those of commoners). It is now worn as folk costume for performing Russian folk songs and folk dancing.
Sarafans could be of single piece construction with thin shoulder straps over which a sleeveless vest, called a "dushegreya" is sometimes worn, giving the shape of the body of a smaller triangle over a larger one. It comes in different styles such as the simpler black, flower- or check-patterned versions formerly used for everyday wear, or the elaborate brocade versions formerly reserved for special occasions. The head-dress usually worn with the sarafan today in folk performances is the kokoshnik, although in the past a head scarf tied under the chin or at the back of the head was part of everyday dress.
Plain sarafans are still designed and worn today as a summer-time light dress without the traditional Russian blouse. They can be worn during folk music and dance performances and are produced as souvenirs.