HONORING THE ROMANOV GRAND DUCHESSES
I am not really sure if it’s because they followed the royal fashions of their era – I’m guessing they did – but in my mind this is exactly how a princess should look like; fair, with fine long hair – put up in an elegant updo or held together with a pretty bow – dressed in long white dresses, skirts and lace blouses, and looking confidently under their wide-brimmed flower hats. The only thing I am sure of is that they have inspired me to spend the past summers dressed in total-white outfits and straw hats, to start wearing maxi skirts and layer a pearl and a pendant necklace. That’s why I wanted to pay my tribute to the Romanov sisters, daughters of the last Tsar.
If you attempt to google them, you will find a massive amount of information, regarding their relationship with each other, their humble personalities despite their royal status and – most of all – their tragic death; I have never come across a post dedicated to their style, which I find particularly influential. And trust me when I say this; I am not the only one. Hence, I asked Eva, aka The Undercover Princess herself, to join me in this endeavor to document the style of four of the most influential fashion personalities of the past century.
Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia were born at the beginning of the 20th century at Alexander Palace, when Russia was going through severe national crisis. Soon the Revolution broke out, and the family was moved from the Palace and forced in house arrest in the Ipatiev House. On the night of July 17, 1918 all members of the imperial family were brutally put to death by the Bolsheviks.
The girls grew up very close to one another, though they had very different personalities: Olga had a sparkling wit and was very creative; she played the piano and loved to read and write. Tatiana was the bossy one and possessed a talent for picking out the most stylish dresses and creating elegant hair styles. Maria was described as an “angel;” she was loving and known for her kindness, and had a talent for drawing. Anastasia was the prankster of the family; she was the energetic and vivacious and described as a “gifted actress.” Olga and Tatiana were known as “The Big Pair” and Maria and Anastasia as “The Little Pair.”
The Duchesses were usually dressed in simple English fashion. Despite their high echelon – they were addressed as “Imperial Highnesses”, which is a higher title than that of any other European princess – they dressed in a somewhat humble way. Rather than accessorizing with flashy jewelry and ridiculous oversized hats to express their nobility, the highest royal blood status was exuded by their innocent and graceful outfits.
Given their simple upbringing, none of the girls used to overspend on clothes and accessories. In fact, the clothes outgrown by the eldest daughters were handed down to the young ones. However, they were always dressed in the finest of fabrics. Both pairs were dressed similarly – if not identically – for all formal occasions. The “Big Pair wore one color and the “Little” another; all clothes were handpicked by Tsarina herself. Following the tradition, they didn’t wear long skirts until they were 16, when they were considered adults. At that age, they could also cut off their long hair and choose their own dresses.
While, when still kids, they would opt for sailor suits and straw hats, they quickly grew into some of the most stylish young royals. During the summer, they would dress in the way they will always be remembered by; in pure white and flower hats. The rest of the year, they would wear plain skirts and blouses, match wool blazers to wool skirts and trade their favorite summer straw hats for wool feather ones.
Except special occasions, they wore a little jewelry, which most of the times was a family gift. In the day of her twelfth birthday, every Grand Duchess would receive a golden bracelet, which they would since wear always for “good luck.” Every year on their birthdays and name days, according to an imperial tradition, they would receive as a present diamond and pearl jewelry, so they have fine jewelry by the time they reached 16.
They kept their hair long for most of their life and they always used to accessorize it with silk ribbons and elegantly decorated hats and turbans.
Although the majority of modern Russian women today possess quite a different approach to aesthetics (think plump lips, lots and lots of fur and killer high heels for each and every occasion), the duchesses’ impact on the fashion of our century is not to be neglected. Russian royalty was still very traditional in the first couple of decades of the 20th century when the sisters were growing up, and their sense of style did seem rather novel for that epoch.
A designer, who embodies the Romanov charm exceptionally, is Ulyana Sergeenko. Even though it has never been particularly written or said that young Tsar’s daughters were the ones having inspired one of her collections, the sisters would surely enjoy dressing up in beautiful creations from Ulyana’s spring and autumn 2013 couture collections. Imbued with a feeling of Russian traditionalism, long dresses, rich fabrics, and masterfully made hats are something that would fit right into the young royals’ closet.
Their iconic fashion, however, did not only influence the – sometimes unattainable – world of couture. Having a look through a high street store, one cannot help but notice racks of black dresses with white collars peeking out at the top, intricate blouses, and strands of pearls. The royal lives had ended too early, but the Romanov chic innocent style has not lost its appeal.
Hence, we encountered no difficulty when recreating their signature royal looks:
co-written with Eva Victoria
Images via Tumblr and Style.com