Author Topic: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal  (Read 101530 times)

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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #45 on: January 23, 2013, 05:58:22 AM »
Princess Cantacuzene devotes a good bit of her book, 'My life here and there' to a description of Alexandra, of whom she does not appear to be much enamoured (in another books she writes with great authority, of the sinister influence of Anna Vyrubova who she was convinced was Rasputin's mistress and who she believed ruled Alexandra in turn).  She does not repeat the anecdote in this exact form here, but does write about the general society view of Alexandra: "it was said the Empress tried to introduce the "ways of the German and English bourgeois houses" to Russia's court!" I heard this from my mother-in-law and it was typical of the kind of thing constantly being told.  Always some unfortunate little remark or act, attitude or expression, marred the effect of what one was anxious to believe - that our Empress wished to do right by her subjects and to please them.........I had several personal experiences of this.  First, at the very beginning, her unnecessary criticism of a pretty and correct enough gown on a stranger who was anxious to please, roused the animosity of a large group of young women.  Then, her attitude of sitting on judgement on society and its gay ways......" and so it goes on.  The book can be seen online at the Hathi Trust digital library, along with others by Princess Cantacuzene: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Search/Home?lookfor=%22Kantakuzen,%20Julia%20(Grant),%20kni%CD%A1agini%CD%A1a,%201876-1968.%22&type=author&inst=all for those who don't have access to a physical book.  But perhaps it is in another of Princess Cantacuzene's books.

It did strike me that the anecdote had a certain esprit d'escalier about it - the sort of thing the "pretty and correct" young woman and/or her friends might have thought much later was the perfect riposte after such an incident but not something a proper young lady would have actually said.

Offline Helen

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #46 on: January 23, 2013, 06:12:36 AM »
Thank you for the links, CountessKate.

The source where I got my information from was not one of Princess Cantacuzene's books.
If I recall well, this source claimed that the whole anecdote, including the Empress remark, was a fabrication.
"The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Duchess of Hesse. 1878-1916"
"Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine in Italy - 1893"
"Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine - Gebhard Zernin's Festschrift"

Offline Sarushka

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #47 on: January 23, 2013, 09:04:06 AM »
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.

I wouldn't be surprised. It has the too-good-to-be-true feel of an urban legend to me.

The anecdote does appear in Nicholas and Alexandra (pg 76 in the latest hardcover version), sourced to page 26 of Gleb Botkin's The Real Romanovs.

Massie, writing in the 1960's with no access to GARF, depended heavily on courtier memoirs which are loaded with these kinds of apocryphal snippets. Many of them -- like the story of Nagorny and the gold cross at the Ipatiev house, which also appears in Massie -- have been disproven by later research. That's the difficulty with Nicholas and Alexandra -- Massie wrote the best and most accurate book possible with the information that was available at the time. People don't always take the intervening four and a half decades of research into account when they repeat these older stories. Massie's reputation is iron-clad, and deservedly so, but even the most excellent research can be superseded by new information.


And it's nice to finally "meet" you, Sarushka. The Lost Crown got me through Hurricane Sandy. :)

I almost missed this -- thanks!
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Offline Sanochka

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #48 on: January 27, 2013, 02:01:54 PM »
http://i1139.photobucket.com/albums/n556/sanochka1/OTMampAFLivadia1914_zps8b67dd6e.jpg

In this decidedly unflattering photo, it appears that Alexandra is not wearing a corset. 

Offline Sanochka

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #49 on: January 27, 2013, 02:11:48 PM »



Ooops.  I forgot to hit the "insert image" icon above.  Here is the above photo sans hyperlink. 
« Last Edit: January 27, 2013, 02:14:01 PM by Sanochka »

Offline edubs31

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #50 on: January 27, 2013, 02:47:58 PM »
New to me, thanks for posting Sanochka. I'm guessing mid to late-1914 here?

Is Anastasia tucked in behind somewhere? I think I see the top of her head peaking out on either side of Olga's neck in the background if you look closely. Impossible to tell for certain but I assume she's included here. I'm guessing her and Marie are dressed the same, since Olga and Tatiana are.

This is a pretty cool photo and very typical. Alexandra out in front leading the way. Tatiana (hands together no less!) directly behind her seeming to pay close mind and being the dependable mother's daughter she always was. Big smile on Marie's face meanwhile, and Olga grinning...sharing in a light moment. I imagine the Imp is tucked in behind paying little attention to anything. If she only had an IPhone she'd surely be texting away :-)
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Offline Sarushka

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #51 on: January 27, 2013, 04:29:23 PM »
http://i1139.photobucket.com/albums/n556/sanochka1/OTMampAFLivadia1914_zps8b67dd6e.jpg

In this decidedly unflattering photo, it appears that Alexandra is not wearing a corset. 

What makes you say that?
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Offline Lady Macduff

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #52 on: January 27, 2013, 06:43:02 PM »
Her belly is bulging a little, but I doubt it's because she isn't wearing a corset. Wouldn't that be like not wearing a bra today?

And this is one of my favorite Tatiana shots.
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Offline Sanochka

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #53 on: January 27, 2013, 06:50:12 PM »
I think she looks a bit dumpy here.  She had her double chin air brushed out of well-known 1910 portrait of her surrounded by her daughters.  With that, I can't imagine she would have been thrilled with this shot.

Offline Sarushka

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #54 on: January 27, 2013, 07:11:35 PM »
Wouldn't that be like not wearing a bra today?

Exactly.
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Offline Lady Macduff

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #55 on: January 27, 2013, 07:17:44 PM »
Was Alexandra overweight? There's a picture of her where I momentarily thought she was Anna Vyrubova. I'll see if I can dig it up.
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Offline edubs31

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #56 on: January 27, 2013, 07:31:32 PM »
I agree that this isn't a terribly flattering photo of the Empress but it's far from the first thing that I would have noticed. Personally I think it a very flattering photo of OTM for some of the reasons I've posted above. The poor lighting and shadows make it difficult to see the Empress clearly so I guess it's possible that we might have the old 'camera adding 10-15 pounds' effect on our hands here.

Olga and Marie look pretty much the same as they did in those photos from the famous 1914 portrait session, which I believe took place in May of that year. Tatiana's hair looks a bit longer here. She wore the wig in the 1913 photos and her hair was still rather short in the 1914 session. But it looks as though it's grown in a bit more which leads me to believe that this photograph was taken a few months later.
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #57 on: January 28, 2013, 04:53:53 AM »
I think there is a common misperception that corsets were invariably intended to create a slim figure with a small waist.  For older women of the period in particular, this was not especially true.  Although they could use them this way, the main reason respectable women wore corsets was to achieve a restrained shape, so the bust and hips were not free and perceived as immodest.  Moreover, the shape of corsets followed the fashion.  From 1909, corsets developed longer lines, no longer striving to achieve by then outmoded 's' bend shape.  Here are an illustration from a corset advertisements from 1912-13, and two from 1914, when corsets became even less restrictive (comparatively speaking):







Allowing for the exaggeration of the illustrations, one can see that the corset of that time did not pull the figure in at the waist and, if made for an individual woman (as Alexandra's corsets certainly would have been), would have fitted her body's measurements.  There was also provision for letting corsets out at the lacings at the back, as was mentioned in earlier posts.  It is in fact possible to discern under the filmy top of Alexandra's dress in the photo, some diagonal lines which could indicate boning from a corset, but even if these were not, the illustrations demonstrate that a fuller figure did not mean corsets would not be found supporting it.  Indeed, the wonderful 'nuform' corset illustration shows the active life a woman was supposed to lead wearing it.

Offline CountessKate

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #58 on: January 28, 2013, 05:01:44 AM »
Sorry, I posted the 1912-13 illustration twice.  Here is the 1914 corset illustration I intended to post:



There is a strong point of view suggesting that the flat figure of the 1920s was a product of the freedoms brought by WW1, but in fact you can discern the longer, flatter body shape starting really from the higher waists of the 'Directoire' fashions from 1909 onwards, and the underpinnings of course supported the trend.

Offline Clemence

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Re: Alexandra's Clothing; Formal and Informal
« Reply #59 on: January 28, 2013, 01:52:11 PM »
CountessKate would you know what was the use of those corsets for the lower part of the body, cause I see some details in the advertisements you published but I have no idea why they were there ... I mean those things we see going from the waist and down.
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