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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Encyclopedia Of Costumes

Vladimir Nabokov once remarked that in many classic 18th- and 19th-century novels material objects -- a dress, for example -- play almost as important a role as the human characters themselves.

Unfortunately, until recently, little published information has been available about dressing habits, styles and tastes during the different eras in Russia's history.

Raisa Kirsanova has filled this gap. A historian, she has spent many years laboring to create a definitive encyclopedia of costume and dress.

"Costume in Russian Culture From the 18th to the First Part of the 20th Century" ("Kostyum v Russkoi Khudozhestvennoi Kulture") was published this summer by Russia's most prestigious publisher of reference books, Bolshaya Rossiiskaya Entsiklopediya.

Marvelously printed, this 400-page, hardcover book contains more than 200 color and black-and-white illustrations and costs as little as 45,000 rubles (approximately $10) if you buy it from the kiosk inside the publisher's headquarters at 8 Pokrovsky Bulvar. Street vendors are selling it for about 100,000 rubles.

A rich mine of information, Kirsanova's Encyclopedia provides detailed answers to any questions that the Russian or foreign reader may have concerning the history of costume in this country.

With one entry per page on average, Kirsanova supplies a general description of an item of clothing, along with an illustration and a brief historical sketch about its appearance and use in Russia. The entries are also peppered with quotations from literature from the period. Thus the style is both academic and lively, so the book can as easily be read page by page, or used as a source of reference.