Friday, June 29, 2012

Dress of the Week: Princess Charlotte’s Russian Dress

I may have mentioned that I was in Russia recently. This fact has made me slightly obsessed with all things Russian. So it is little wonder that this Dress of the Week is none other than Princess Charlotte’s blue Russian Gown:
Princess Charlotte's "Russian" dress. Museum of London, The Royal Collection.
This gorgeous blue and gold 1917 dress belonged to Princess Charlotte of Wales, daughter of King George IV and Caroline of Brunswick, and is now in the Royal Collection. What's interesting is that Princess Charlotte wears this dress in a number of portraits, including the one below by George Dawe from 1817.  

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, George Dawe, 1817
Strangely enough, I couldn't find any information about the gown itself. It has a very high Empire waste, right under the bust, and is richly embellished with gold ornaments and a tassel around the hem. The color must have faded over the years as the dress appears to be bright blue in paintings as opposed to the pale shade it is now.

I would think that the reason it's called the 'Russian gown' is because it resembles the Russian traditional dress - sarafan. A sarafan is a jumper dress or pinafore which was worn by women and girls of all classes up until Peter the Great's dress reform. After that, only the peasant and the merchant classes wore sarafans. 

Traditional Russian sarafan
A sarafan is a perfect dress for the summer. It's usually made out of cotton and allows you to move freely, unlike all those cumbersome court dresses. And it's also beautifully decorated with embroidery and other embellishments, which makes it the perfect day dress for any lady.

Roman K from over at FolkCostume&Embroidery has a great post about Russian traditional dress.
And if you want to know more about Princess Charlotte's gown, here's an article from Jane Austen's World.  

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