My 3.5 year old daughter wanted to be a princess for Halloween. OK! I said, then promptly lost my sanity and proceeded with making her an entire, (mostly) historically accurate 18th century Robe a la Francaise, using nothing but thrifted bed sheets for the fabric.
If you’re interested in the nitty gritty details - I’ve made a blog post detailing the construction process
IMPERIAL RUSSIA MEME: 1 /3 Fashion Trend/Styles - Imperial Court Dress
The exquisite traditional dress worn by the Russian aristocracy is both great in artistic value and something of an icon.
Until the coronation of Peter I (the Great), the court of Muscovy was known for its sartorial splendor and the isolation in which it developed. Russians had inherited a religious and exotic legacy from Byzantium, and so the clothes of the Russian court were still the rich silks of the east; long robes heavily embroidered and sewn with pearls and precious gems. But when Peter took the throne, he immediately introduced Westernization to Russia, moving the capital to Saint Petersburg on the edge of the great Neva river, and with it, abolishing the ancient modes of dress and manners of living that had marked the Muscovite court.
At his new court in St. Petersburg, Peter the Great first introduced the popular German and Austrian fashions of the Western world, before the great French styles found its way into Russian culture- through fabric merchants and engravings. French fever caught on, and soon overtook the somewhat outdated previous styles. During the reign of Catherine the Great, the wide hooped skirts and tall wigs were the standard by all other fashions set.
But by the 1830’s, this excessive French design was deemed inappropriate. Emperor Nicholas I had had enough, and felt the need to see unity among the women of his court. As part of his vast efforts to distinguish and organize the ranks of the court Nicholas I and Count M.M. Speransky published the Code of Laws of the Russian Empire in 1833. This massive set of laws incorporated everything pertaining to the Empire, including the Edict on Court Dress. The edict specified that women at the Russian court were to wear “Russian Dress Uniforms”: Paradnaya Plat’e.
This was initially described as “a white embroidered silk gown, with an embroidered velvet overdress with long, open sleeves in the Muscovite style." The skirts were rouched and fastened at the waist, held together by a gold cord. The skirt was bell-like and full, the sleeves slightly puffed at the shoulders. This was a combination of the current "Romantic" style of fashion, and the ancient Russian style, and its usage became law.
These dresses were extraordinarily complicated and heavy, the bodices were tightly boned. The dress trains were interlined and reinforced to support the great weight of the gold embroidery. Though pieces of art in their own right, the dresses were unwieldy, and women of the court began to refer to dressing for Court occasions as “putting on the armor.”
The court gowns were also very expensive. In 1885, a gown ordered by Princess Zenaida Yusupova was 1500 roubles (the Faberge Imperial Egg of 1888 cost the same), and this gown would have been nowhere near as expensive as one ordered for a member of the Imperial Family. The dresses took anywhere from 6-8 months to complete, and so, the embroidered panels for the sleeves, train, and bodice were often executed in advance, and stored flat. Women would arrive at the dressmaker, choose the panels which suited her taste, position, and financial state, and the dress would be assembled, boned, and finished for her, just like any other dress shop. The dresses were frequently returned for repairs and alterations, and were sometimes sent to be cleaned as well.
While other courts moved on, changing and adapting the dress of their courts, Russia stayed firmly in its Slavic historical mode, the gowns becoming iconic and a symbol of pride for the Russian women from 1834 until 1917. Russian women stood out in foreign courts, and at home they made a unforgettable impression on visitors and natives.
The Soviet period saw the end of not only the wearing of court attire, but the virtual extinction of the Russian art of embroidery. Many of the women who were capable of this type of embroidery fled the revolution, and moved to France, where they were eagerly employed by couturiers such as Patou, Lanvin, and Chanel.
Love the thought of them putting on armour.