The outfits that adorn royalty has always garnered interest, whether it be Queen Elizabeth II’s satin gowns embroidered with pearls, diamante and gold by Norman Hartwell or Princess Diana’s ivory taffeta and antique lace wedding dress complete with a 25 ft train that had a global audience of 750 million people in awe of her.
The way a person dresses is perceived and judged in many ways and to the Tsars of Imperial Russia, it was the perfect way of displaying their wealth, power and authority not to mention their opulence. As part of an exchange between the V & A and the Moscow Kremlin Museums – they’re currently displaying Two Centuries of British Fashion – the decorated costumes and uniforms worn by the Tsars and court officials will be displayed for the first time outside of Russia, or in fact ever.
The exhibition will feature more than 40 ensembles including the extensive gold and silver embellished wardrobe of the boy aged 11 who became Emperor Peter II and the coronation outfits of the succeeding seven emperors ending with the last, Nicholas II. The display will conclude with a five metre long, ermine-trimmed Imperial coronation mantle identical to the one worn by Nicholas II in 1896 and examples of 18th Century men’s dress and the uniforms of court officials, coachmen and postilions.
Intricate embroidery and embellishment is often seen as the pinnacle of luxury fashion and the costumes demonstrate the originality and skill of the finest tailors, embroiderers and jewellers and their exquisite use of embellished silks, intricate embroidery and lace. Whilst some reflect various influences of Western Europe, the rest show how the Tsars began to implement elements of traditional Russian costume demonstrating the rise in European nationalism.
Magnificense of the Tsars on at the V&A 10th December 2008 to 2nd March 2009.