Author Topic: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal  (Read 70149 times)

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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #30 on: September 29, 2012, 02:50:17 AM »
More from "The Solokov Investigation" according to one her maids Alexandra always wore a corset and believed it was indecent for a woman to go around not wearing one. So I am now pretty sure she was wearing one when she was murdered as were her daughters and the maid.
Six sets of corset stays were found at the Ganin pit, which accounts for Alexandra, her four daughters, and the maid Demidova - exactly six women.  Since the clothing that each was wearing on the night of the murder was burned, each of the six must have been wearing a corset.  I, too, have read that Alexandra considered going without a corset "indecent," and so wonder at a post elsewhere in these threads in which the author stated that Alexandra did not wear corsets.  The shape of many, if not all, of the dresses featured here on this thread suggest a corset - especially those dresses of the 1890s and early 1900s.

That's really interesting to hear.  I didn't find the statement in the recent exhibition that Alexandra "refused" to wear a corset at all convincing; although the Pavlovsk costumes on show are undoubtedly flowing and lacey and many may well have been designed to wear as the dressing gowns or peignoirs which did not require corsets, these would have been for private wear amongst the immediate family.  Even tea gowns would have been worn with corsets if others not in the immediate family (husband, close family, personal servants or female friends) were present.  Society women like Consuelo, Duchess of Manchester, were notorious for not wearing a corset and it would have been very unusual for a woman professing such high moral values as Alexandra to make such a statement.  The expression "strait-laced" meaning rigidly moral, which Alexandra certainly was, comes from the firm lacing of corsets and dresses (i.e. no loose ties or laces to enable the seducer to remove clothes easily), so was an expression of moral values as much as fashion, like wearing low-necked gowns showed you to be a woman of questionable morals.  The gowns from about 1907 or so when waists became highter and the line of the body was much slimmer, were still designed to be worn with corsets and only very fashionable, rather risque women left off corsets.

Alixz

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #31 on: September 29, 2012, 09:55:21 AM »
Can anyone give a source or direct us to the thread in which this statement was made? What book it came from or who the author was?

I find it strange, too.  I agree that the flowing dresses would be peignoirs or tea gowns or late maternity clothing. Nothing that Alexandra would have worn in public.

My grandmother, who was born in 1886, was still wearing corsets in the 1910s. She was very proud of her 16 inch waist. She died in 1952 and I don't remember when she would have stopped wearing corsets, but there was a shop in our town that was still selling corsets and corseletts in the 1960s! It was called the Princess Corset Shop.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2012, 09:58:15 AM by Alixz »

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #32 on: September 29, 2012, 10:32:06 AM »
I have no idea where that idea came from. It goes against all that I have read as well.
 Costume has always intersted me, history and design. That mainly goes back to my Hollywood days.
 I have "dressed  many women , and a few men and laced up not a few corsets. My question would be, how did  women do it themselves, without maids or a sister, mother, etc. ?
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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #33 on: September 29, 2012, 11:22:28 AM »
Robert, I think there were long handled "hooks" like the old shoe button hooks for buttoning high button shoes.

I am not sure. I have a picture of my grandmother and her sisters (I'm sure they helped each other) and if I can find it without too much sorting, I will post it. Of course I have seen ( and we all have seen) people in old pictures, but this one has always intrigues me because it is of a relative of mine.

It is sort of like a woman pulling up the zipper of a zip back dress. A lot of squirming and reaching went into that and that I remember!

Offline CountessKate

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #34 on: September 29, 2012, 04:14:06 PM »
Quote
Can anyone give a source or direct us to the thread in which this statement was made? What book it came from or who the author was?

The quote that "Historians note that Alexandra was a woman with good taste in fashion. The early 20th-century empress preferred loose, flowing, dresses, refusing to wear a corset" comes from Paul Gilbert's report on the costume exhibition at Pavlovsk (#1 on this thread), link posted by Inok Nicolai but I will repost for ease of reference:
http://www.angelfire.com/pa/ImperialRussian/blog/index.blog/1437783/pavlovsk-displays-empress-alexandra-feodorovnas-dresses/
I assumed he was quoting one of the curators of the exhibition whose opinion was perhaps too influenced by the type of dresses being exhibited rather than by a close study of Alexandra's views and habits.

Quote
I have "dressed  many women , and a few men and laced up not a few corsets. My question would be, how did  women do it themselves, without maids or a sister, mother, etc. ?

It was not necessary for someone else to lace a nineteenth/early twentieth century corset because once the correct lacing was achieved it did not necessarily have to be adjusted on a daily basis.  Corsets were not usually laced closed at the back – Valerie Steele in her book ‘The corset – a cultural history’ explains that they might “have been left open one, two, or more inches in back”.  A woman alone could loosely lace her new corset and put it on, and take it off again and tighten or loosen the laces, depending on the level of comfort or the shape she wished to achieve, possibly putting the corset over a bedpost or something of that nature to get the fit.  Once she had the lacing to her satisfaction, she would thereafter take the corset on and off using the hooks at the front, and wouldn’t touch the laces at the back at all.  She would wear a chemise underneath and often a corset cover on top, so the corset was protected from her sweat and skin flaking (and she was protected from any chafing from the corset), so it wouldn’t need frequent cleaning (which would have been difficult for poorer women who were unlikely to have spares, and if they were respectable could hardly go without a corset while it was being cleaned).  Of course it was a lot easier if you did have a maid to constantly adjust the lacing but women who did not have that luxury, or whose sisters were hardly likely to constantly take the trouble, could manage perfectly well.

Alixz

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #35 on: October 01, 2012, 01:19:08 PM »
I think we have all been influenced by Scarlett being laced into her corset in the first scenes of Gone With The Wind where she childes "Mamie" to pull it tighter.

I had forgotten about the hooks in the front.

Offline CountessKate

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #36 on: October 08, 2012, 04:16:17 AM »
This Lamanova model is one of my absolute favorites of all Alexandra's gowns:



Some details of the skirt:


Offline CountessKate

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #37 on: October 08, 2012, 04:20:47 AM »
And this Lamanova gown of Alexandra's comes a close second:



Detail of the bodice:



I should add, the style of both gowns suggests the early 1900s.


Offline Lady Macduff

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #38 on: January 22, 2013, 03:17:47 PM »
I LOVE the first Lamanova gown. A few days ago I was leafing through my copy of Peter Kurth's TSAR, which I know is riddled with inaccuracies, and I came across an anecdote that went something like this: At one of Alix's first balls in Russia, she was shocked by how low a particular lady's neckline was. She sent a lady in waiting to tell her that in Germany they did not wear their dresses like that. The messenger came back with the woman's reply - "Pleased if you could tell the empress that in Russia we DO wear our dresses like this." I don't have the book on hand so I can't copy the incident exactly, but has anyone else come across other records of it taking place?
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Offline MademoiselleAndrea

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #39 on: January 22, 2013, 04:10:06 PM »
I remember reading this somewhere, and not in TSAR either, (I have never read that book, perhaps for the best if it is so innacurate!) so it must have some truth. I skimmed a bit of "Nicholas & Alexandra" and didn't see it, but perhaps I was looking too early on in the book.
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Offline Sarushka

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #40 on: January 22, 2013, 07:40:11 PM »
I LOVE the first Lamanova gown. A few days ago I was leafing through my copy of Peter Kurth's TSAR, which I know is riddled with inaccuracies, and I came across an anecdote that went something like this: At one of Alix's first balls in Russia, she was shocked by how low a particular lady's neckline was. She sent a lady in waiting to tell her that in Germany they did not wear their dresses like that. The messenger came back with the woman's reply - "Pleased if you could tell the empress that in Russia we DO wear our dresses like this." I don't have the book on hand so I can't copy the incident exactly, but has anyone else come across other records of it taking place?

This anecdote may also be in Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra, and/or The Last Empress, by Greg King.

It's been some time since I read Tsar, but offhand I don't recall it being terribly unreliable.
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Offline Lady Macduff

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #41 on: January 22, 2013, 08:42:27 PM »
I guess I exaggerated when I said "full of inaccuracies." It has that probably false story about Anastasia asking for shoes in the Ipatiev house, but I can't think of any others offhand. I know Kurth still supports Anna Anderson, I guess I let that cloud my judgement of him a little. And it's nice to finally "meet" you, Sarushka. The Lost Crown got me through Hurricane Sandy. :)
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #42 on: January 23, 2013, 02:49:37 AM »
I've always been curious about the incident as well.  In Greg King's book 'The court of the last Tsar', this anecdote is attributed to Gleb Botkin in his book 'The real Romanovs'.  The story has never been told with the identity of the person who was supposed to have given this response, and it is usually repeated in books to demonstrate Alexandra's narrow-minded morality.  The other thing the anecdote is meant to demonstrate I think, is Alexandra's provincial nature - it is sometimes told as Alexandra saying that "in Darmstadt we never wear our dresses like that" (Darmstadt of course being a small, provincial German court). 

What I do find strange is that any court lady would be (a) so discourteous and impertinent to the Empress (and by extension the Emperor and the Imperial family) and (b) risk basically being banned from court events.  Whatever she may have thought of her daughter-in-law, Maria Feodorovna would not have supported this affront to the throne, and looking at other courts, I can't see people like Queen Mary or even Queen Alexandra taking such a thing on the chin either.  While it may be that something like this happened, I wonder whether the young woman who sent this response was immediately suppressed by her family and made to grovel, and every effort was made to mitigate the offense and obliterate the offender's name from the story - the only way really they could demonstrate their loyalty to the throne after such rudeness.  Perhaps in later years when dissatisfaction with Alexandra was growing, the event was remembered vaguely on the lines of:  "I always knew there was something off about her - didn't she once send a stupid message about someone's low-necked dress".

Offline Helen

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #43 on: January 23, 2013, 04:06:09 AM »
I LOVE the first Lamanova gown. A few days ago I was leafing through my copy of Peter Kurth's TSAR, which I know is riddled with inaccuracies, and I came across an anecdote that went something like this: At one of Alix's first balls in Russia, she was shocked by how low a particular lady's neckline was. She sent a lady in waiting to tell her that in Germany they did not wear their dresses like that. The messenger came back with the woman's reply - "Pleased if you could tell the empress that in Russia we DO wear our dresses like this." I don't have the book on hand so I can't copy the incident exactly, but has anyone else come across other records of it taking place?
This anecdote may also be in Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra, and/or The Last Empress, by Greg King.
It's been some time since I read Tsar, but offhand I don't recall it being terribly unreliable.
Still, not too long ago, I read that this anecdote was just a fabrication in a source that seemed reliable. I'm racking my brains for the title of the book where I read it.
"The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Duchess of Hesse. 1878-1916"  -  http://www.bod.de/index.php?id=296&objk_
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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #44 on: January 23, 2013, 04:19:53 AM »
I saw it, or something very similar, in the book by Princess Cantacuzene, published about 1920. Bless OTMA lent me the book, so will have more details.

Ann