Nadezhda Lamanova- Between Two Worlds, Part 2

In our last post, we took a brief look at the career(s) and work of the Russian designer Nadezhda Lamanova as she built a reputation as a designer of Haute Couture for Russia’s upper classes and subsequently reinvented herself as an avant garde designer for the masses in the new revolutionary Russia. Now we’re going to take another look at Lamanova’s designs prior to 1917.

To start, here is one particularly striking example from circa 1910 – 1914:

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Evening Dress, Nadezhda Lamanova, c. 1912 – 1914; State Hermitage Museum

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Rear View

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Side Profile

The above dress design reflects the shift from the earlier tightly structured silhouette of the S-bend corset towards a more vertical silhouette employing a tubular dress shape. Make no mistake about it, the underpinnings were still there but now the dress flowed loosely in a manner reminiscent of the Classical Grecian Chiton.

The dress itself is two layers, the underlayer composed of a turquoise/jade green satin and an overlayer consisting of a black chiffon embroidered a floral motif consisting of the flowers and leaves of chrysanthemums. The embroidery itself is in a golden-green silk and gold thread. One can see the combination of different textures, contrasting colors and a separate overlayer with metallic embroidery creates a three dimensional effect to the dress and this is especially evident when one looks at the train. The above pictures simply do not do justice to the dress.

Now, for something a little different from the Mid-1890s. This is a visiting dress that belonged to the Empress:

Visiting Dress, Nadezhda Lamanova, Mid 1890s; State Hermitage Museum

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Close-Up

The above visiting dress is from the mid-1890s, characterized by the leg of mutton or Gigot sleeve style and it’s a princess line dress. According to the description, the fashion fabric is of an ivory/cream (depending on the light) silk velvet. Metallic sequins have been stitched to create a vine motif with vertical lines of sequins suggesting some a trellis of sorts which serves to accentuate the vertical lines/silhouette of the dress.

The above examples are a tiny fraction of Lamanova’s output and they reflect the major fashion trends of the times and while much of what she created was fairly mainstream conventional as in the case of the above visiting dress, there were also attempts to push boundaries such as in the case of the above green ballgown. It wasn’t until after the revolution that Lamanova came into her own as a designer, creating ready-to-wear designs for the masses while at the same time creating avant garde designs. Lamanova is a designers that we should know more about.

Postscript: We find it amazing that so many dresses of the early 1900s have managed to survive revolutionary turmoil and two world wars. 🙂 

Nadezhda Lamanova- Between Two Worlds, Part 1

As with many of our posts, the subject of this one started with one topic but ended with a completely different topic. Initially, we came across some pictures of a ballgown that had been designed in the early 1900s for the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, consort of the Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia. Then, we noted that the designer was a one Nadezhda Lamanova. What was interesting here was that it was both a designer that was unknown to us and even more striking was that she was female. While almost all of the labor force making Haute Couture dresses were female, it was rare that the designer was female, at least before the 1920s.

Who was Nadezhda Lamanova? Unfortunately, there is not a lot in English about her but here’s what we did find out: Lamanova was born on December 14, 1861 in Nizhni Novgorod, Russia and died in Moscow on October 15, 1941 at the age of 79. Due to her parents’ death at an early age, in 1877 she underwent training as a seamstress at the Moscow School of Sewing. Two years later, she went to work for a fashion house. In 1885, she opened her own dressmaking shop in Moscow and successfully built up her business;  until it had become the most popular dressmaking establishment in Moscow. At some point (the translation is unclear), she traveled to Paris and met up with Paul Poiret-  hopefully we can find out more about this in the future. Eventually, her work came to the attention to the Imperial Court and she was designated as “Supplier of the Court of Her Imperial Majesty” with her designs being worn by the ladies of the Court and the Empress herself.  Finally,  starting around 1901, Lamanova also designed costumes for theatrical productions.

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Early portrait of Nadezhda Lamanova, date unknown.

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Nadezhda Lamanova, portrait by Valentin Serov, 1911.

However, it’s after the Russian Revolution where Lamanova’s career became even more interesting. Arrested in 1919 by the Bolshevik Government (having been an officially designated designer for the Imperial Court could easily have been her death warrant), she was freed by the intervention of the writer Maxim Gorky after spending about 2 1/2 months in prison. Afterwards, she focused on designing theatrical costumes (presumably rehabilitating herself in the eyes of the Bolshevik regime in the process).

The Bolshevik Revolution- Big changes were coming to Russia…

By early 1920s, Lamanova had started designing clothing aimed at the masses, drawing upon traditional Russian dress and even some of her designs were incorporated in an official graphic “how-to” booklet called “Art in Everyday Life” in the form of simple clothing patterns. Below are two samples:

During the 1920s and 1930s, Lamonova’s designs were successfully displayed in various exhibitions outside of Russian and at the same time she continued to design costumes for both the theater and film. Below are just a few examples of her work:

Outfit by Nadezhda Lamanova inspired by traditional costumes of northern peoples, 1923; modeled by the actress Alexandra Hohlova.

Actress Alexandra Hohlova modelling another dress design by Lamanova, 1924.

Lilichka Brik (seated) with her sister Elsa Triolet in folk-inspired dresses by Lamanova, 1925.

Lamanova fashions from the 1920s.

So, what dress is it that got us travelling down this unusual path? Here is is:

Ballgown, c. 1900, Nadezhda Lamanova; presumably in the collection of the Hermitage.

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Close-Up of the Dress

This is a ballgown that was created in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, specific details (in English, at least) are scanty but based on the dress style, we are probably looking at sometime around 1900. While there is a tipped waist line, the bodice does not display the “pigeon breast” effect characteristic of the early 1900s. For materials, we have white satin with tulle and chiffon that has been decorated with sequins and embroidery. As with any of these dresses, the hours of hand-labor put into the embroidery and attaching the sequins is simply mind-numbing.

This ballgown is stunning and it epitomizes the luxury of the Russian Court. At the same time, know some about the designer, it’s amazing that  Nadezhda Lamanova was able to successfully reinvent herself at a time when anyone with an association to the Ancien Regime, no mater how remote, was suspect and oftentimes a one-way ticket to the firing squad. In the next installment, we will look at some more of Lamanova’s work prior to 1917. Stay tuned!

To Be Continued… 

White satin with tulle and chiffon, sequins, and embroidery. Silver brocade belt. Made for Empress Alexandra.