Dressing Up for Britain at the Kremlin Museums

JmgroupNineteenth-century accessories including shoes and bonnets are on display.
It took three years to plan the new exhibition at the Kremlin Museums, "Two Centuries of British Fashion. From the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum."

"First, Yelena Gagarina [director general of the Kremlin Museums] went to London and handpicked some of the clothes from their collection. Then we had to restore the pieces," said Viktoria Pavlenko, the museums' head of exhibitions. Later this year, outfits from the Kremlin will be displayed in exchange at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The exhibition shows the transitions in style throughout the 18th century.

There are around 20 items of clothing on display, as well as many accessories, including shoes, fans and gloves.

The most striking exhibit is at the entrance: A white dress with golden embroidery in the shapes of crescents aligned vertically. The dress sticks out extravagantly at the sides, but is flat at the front and back.

The dress is tiny and does not look like it would fit an adult. "The person would not have had to be so small to get into the dress, because at the time men and women wore corsets," Pavlenko said.

The wide skirt was stylish in the early 19th century, but even when it was out of fashion, it became the uniform for women in court when presenting themselves to the king and queen.

Another prominent exhibit is a lavender velvet coat with a high collar from the end of the 19th century. Beige field flowers, which look like grain, are arranged in a striking pattern on the coat.

"It is a piece that any fashionista today would be proud to wear," Pavlenko said. "It was designed after corsets were abandoned and clothes could just fall freely."

Another beautiful dress that could be worn now is a Grecian-inspired ball gown from the 1820s. The low-cut collar and the short sleeves are immediately recognizable as eveningwear. A pale pink layer under the muslin reinforces the dresses modesty.


Also on display are examples of extravagant accessories that women wore, such as a pair of French gloves that were designed for a lady with delicate hands. The gloves are white leather with lace trimming that reaches the elbow. A fan with autumn-colored fabrics sits on a base made out of seashells with pearl finish, while a brown-suede bonnet with flowers rests to its right.

The British side of the project stipulated that clothes had to be displayed in a dark space. The Kremlin Museums decided to project images of moving clouds on the vaulted ceiling for atmospheric light. "We also asked a florist to pick plants that grow in the English countryside to decorate the space," Pavlenko said.

"Two Centuries of British Fashion. From the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum" (Dva Veka Britanskoi Mody. Iz Sobrania Muzeya Viktorii i Alberta) runs to Nov. 16 at the Kremlin Museums. Metro Alexandrovsky Sad. Tel. 202-3776/2808/0349.