Tiaras! the Kokoshnik explained!

Okay so we all remember last week when we talked about Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik? The one the Peeresses of the Realm presented her when she was only Princess of Wales for her silver wedding anniversary?

Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik Tiara

Okay, jogged your memory. Good. Obviously the word comes from Russian (кокошник) and it is, for our purposes, a tiara that has the shape and style said traditional Russian headdress worn by peasant women and girls for centuries.

traditional Russian kokoshniks

traditional Russian kokoshniks, two single, married on the right

The traditional kokoshnik was typically patterned to match the style of the sarafan (kind of a pinafore) and can be pointed or round. It is tied at the back of the head with long thick ribbons in a large bow, hair worn in a braid. It resembles the French hood worn in Tudor England, but without the veil. Until the time of Peter the Great, it was worn only by girls and unmarried women, sans veil, braided hair on display. Conversely, married women wore a different version that covered all their hair and they also wore a veil underneath or a headscarf over the “I’m-married” kokoshnik. This distinction survived in peasant communities until the Revolution.

During the revival of Russian national culture in the early 19th century, an adapted kokoshnik became part of the official court dress for royalty and ladies-in-waiting. (This is why we have kokoshnik tiaras today, kids!) Adapted for Imperial glamor, gilded, gem-encrusted, this time, the variety used traditionally by unmarried women was worn by both unmarried and married women, showing the front part of the hair, with a translucent veil falling down the back.

Alexandra Feodorovna (19th Century), little Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna in kokoshnik and matching sarafan (1790), and Maria Feodorovna, 1880.

The kokoshnik first dazzled Westerners at the 1903 Ball at the Winter Palace. Beholding the very Eastern Styles of the Russian Imperial family sparked all senses exotic in 17th Century Period garb. It was the last time the imperial family was photographed together.

After the Revolution the kokoshnik was introduced into the Western fashion by Russian émigrés. (My Dutch grandma’s wedding headpiece was a kokoshnik bordered with seed pearls and more along the forehead; my mother would not let me wear it for my wedding.) Even before it became fashionable with Dutch grandmas (who were just twenty-somethings back then) it was the wedding headdress of Mary of Teck when she married George V.

Thank God(dess) that today we only have to worry about the bling! Well, at least only on our website. (If you’re dying to go as a Russian peasant for Halloween next month, I found a bunch of patterns for kokoshniks on Google. Me? I’ll go as a tiara-owner.)

kokoshniks (clockwise) the Prussian Meander Kokoshnik, the Aquamarine Kokoshnik of Sweden, the Russian Fringe and the Diamond-and-Ruby Kokoshnik (still for sale)

From the top we have Princess Sofia of Prussia at her wedding wearing the Meander Kokoshnik (not to be confused with the Meander Tiara of Princess Anne fame); Princess Margaretha of Sweden in the Aquamarine Kokoshnik, Elizabeth II wore the Russian Fringe (aka Surrey-with-the-Fringe-on-Top Tiara) at her wedding; at the bottom, still up for sale is a diamond-and-garnet kokoshnik, erroneously known throughout the years as the “Ruby Kokoshnik.” It’s passed through the years from the Danish Prince Vigo who gave it to his wife eventually ending up with Count Flemming Valdemar of Rosenborg, a former Danish and Icelandic Prince. Now it can be yours…or mine…let’s click together!

I am so inquiring about this. No better, I’ll send the link to my madrileño husband’s work email. He gets annoyed enough when I send him Groupons with vacation deals. Heh heh heh…(I am leaning back at the desk, making the Finger-Pyramid of Evil right now.)

What do you think? Is it me? Or should I hold out for something flashier? Which would you pick?

About ♔ la dauphiine ♔

Connecticut-based jewelry monger, history buff, Mets fan. On the hum-drum side, call me a lauded poet, novelist and ghost-writer. (That's right, I haunt prose.)
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10 Responses to Tiaras! the Kokoshnik explained!

  1. Pingback: the French Hood: Tudor-Era Headgear part I « tiaras and trianon

  2. Pingback: Pick a tiara! « tiaras and trianon

  3. Pingback: Royal Family Portrait 1935 | tiaras and trianon

  4. Perseverance says:

    I love Kokoshniks (or is it Kokoshniki? My Russian is very basic)!


it's not just a love-affair with my own voice

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