Nadezhda Lamanova, 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 of a circa 1910 – 1911 evening dress:

Nadezhda Lamanova, Evening Dress, c. 1911-1912; State Hermitage Museum (ЭРТ-18063)

Lamanova_Green Dress1

Lamanova_Green Dress2

And here’s some details of the embroidered decoration:

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.

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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 Alexandra Feodorovna:

Nadezhda Lamanova, Visiting Dress, c. 1890s; Hermitage Museum (ЭРТ-9404)

 

Day Dress Princess Line Mid 1890s c. 1894-1897 Visiting

Day Dress Princess Line Mid 1890s c. 1894-1897 Visiting

Close-Up

The above visiting dress is from the mid-1890s, most likely 1894-1897 as characterized by the leg of mutton or Gigot sleeve style. Structured as a princess line dress, it was constructed from an ivory/cream-colored silk velvet. The dress features a decorative pattern of lines of green and silver metallic sequins that have been stitched in such a was as to create a vine motif; the vertical lines of sequins suggest 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 evening dress. 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.



Nadezhda Lamanova, 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.

Nadezhda 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.1Unfortunately, there’s not a lot about her in English so we’ve gleaned some of the basic biographical details from a variety of sources.

Надежда_Петровна_Ламанова

Early portrait of Nadezhda Lamanova, date unknown.

Nadezhda_Lamanova_by_Valentin_Serov_1911

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 (one can definitely get a Paul Poiret vibe looking at these):

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? Well, here is is, a ballgown that belonged to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna:

Nadezhda Lamanova, Ballgown, Early 1900s; State Hermitage Museum (ЭРТ-8619)

Close-up of Bodice

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 the 1900-1906 time frame. The dress is constructed from white/ivory-colored silk satin underskirt combined with a white/ivory tulle decorated in sequins, beading and appliques using a floral design motif.  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.

To Be Continued… 



The Philosophy Of Paul Poiret – Principles Of Correct Dress

Poiret_Studio

Paul Poiret was one of the most influential designers during the early 20th Century and he played a major role in shaping haute couture and the fashion industry as we know it today. Most notably, Poiret helped ensure the demise of the corset, and especially it’s most recent incarnation in the form of the s-bend corset, and introduced new designs that moved fashion away from highly structured silhouettes to more loose ones based on draping rather than tailoring. Also, Poiret was noted for the development of the hobble skirt and the “lampshade dress” as well as incorporating oriental elements in his designs. Here we see just one example of the “lampshade” dress style from 1912:

Poiret, Evening Dress, 1912; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.385&A-1976)

Poiret, Evening Dress, 1912; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.385&A-1976)

However, lost in all of Poiret’s achievements is consideration of his ideas, or “philosophy” were about dress itself. One charge that is often laid on haute couture and their designers is that wealth automatically equates to good or “correct” dress. To Poiret:

This art has little in common with money. The woman whose resources are limited has no more cause for being dowdily dressed than the woman who is rich has reason to believe that she is beautifully gowned. Except in so far as money can procure the services of a good dressmaker, of an artist who can judge his customer’s style and garb her accordingly, the wealthy woman stands no better chance of being correctly dressed than the woman who must turn every penny before spending it. [1]

While the above is almost a truism when it comes to fashion, at least today, it’s still revealing coming from the man who had crowned himself the “King of Fashion.” Poiret further expands on this theme, stating that dressing is:

…not an easy art to acquire. It demands a certain amount of intelligence, certain gifts, some of them among the rarest, perhaps—it requires a real appreciation of harmony, of colors, ingenious ideas, absolute tact, and, above all, a love of the beautiful and clear perception of values. It may be resumed in two words, good taste. [2]

So, what is “good taste” to Poiret?

Taste is by no means developed by riches; on the contrary, the increasing demands of luxury are killing the art of dressing. Luxury and good taste are in inverse proportion to each other. The one will kill the other as machinery is crowding out handwork. In fact, it has come so far that many persons confuse the two terms. Because a material is expensive they find it beautiful; because it is cheap they think it must be ugly. [3]

The above is as true today as it was back then and we see it in the fashion nearly every day. Naturally, “good taste” can be somewhat subjective, depending on time and place but it still gets to the idea that one cannot simply buy their way into good taste, or by extension, good fashion.

Here we see a sample of the fashion illustrations that Poiret commissioned by various avant garde artists such as Paul Iribe. Here we see a definite revival of the simple vertical lines of the empire dress style:

Paul Iribe, Les Robes de Paul Poiret, Plate I (1908)

Paul Iribe, Les Robes de Paul Poiret, Plate III (1908)

Poiret also notes that:

In order not to appear entirely at odds with her surroundings and the place where she lives, a woman is obliged to follow fashions to a certain extent. But let that be within certain bounds. What does it matter if tight skirts be the fashion if your figure demands a wide one? Is it not important to dress so as to bring out your good points rather than to reveal the bad? Can any idea of being fashionable make up for the fact of being ridiculous? [4]

And there it it- Poiret gets to the heart of the matter by pointing out that fashion is about emphasizing one’s good points rather than the bad, something that holds true today as it did then. The above has been only a small sample of the depth of Poiret’s fashion “philosophy” but it’s interesting to see that his ideas still hold true today in many ways and as such, they represent a distinct break with the 19th Century.

1. Principles of Correct Dress, Florence Hull Winterburn, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1914, p. 237.
2. Ibid., pp. 237-238
3. Ibid., p. 239
4. Ibid., pp. 240-241