Ko-ko-koshnik Time Machine! the 1903 Winter Ball

Winter Palace FacadeOkay, you either think the title is (1) uproarious like me, (2) cheese-tastic, or (3) you don’t know which cartoon I reference. Either way, hop in your DeLoreans, gun it up to 88 mph and let’s head to St. Petersburg 1903 to check out more kokoshniks! (Don’t forget your plutonium…the Mr. Fusion is on the fritz.)

What Would Halloween Be Without a Masquerade Ball?

Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra at 1903 ballAs the title suggests, this ball did not take place on Halloween, rather in the dead of winter. Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra hosted a magnificent costume ball at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. (Pictured above; ironically not in the wintertime.) Spanning nearly three days, from February 11 and 13, this fête was considered the last display of the lavish Romanov rule. The fancy dress theme? The regalia fashionable in 17th Century Russia. The Tsar and Tsarina dressed as a tsar and tsarina. (Whoa, staying in character must have been tough!) Nicholas II went as Alexei I, the second tsar of the Romanov dynasty, whose reign lasted from July 1645 to January 1676. Tsarina  Alix complimented her husband as Maria Miloslavskaya, Tsar Alexi’s first wife of many.

Not that Plastic Mask Costume Your Mom Bought You at Target

1903 Ball Costumes collage 2Nicholas and Alix not only threw an extravagant ball, they provided their guest with authentic garb. “Authentic” not meaning historically accurate reproductions. Their guests wore priceless, original museum pieces brought over from the Kremlin and other museums, specially for the event. Yes, I’d like to borrow the Angoulême Emerald Tiara…I have this thing to go to…thanks Louvre.Ha! If only… Check out Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna‘s richly bejewelled get-up!

1903 Ball grand duchess xena, costume detailOh how the Cristal must have flowed! I wonder how many drinks were downed before those costumes became absolutely stifling.

1903 Winter Ball CostumesThen again, I don’t know what the heating situation at the Winter Palace was in the early Twentieth. I can’t imagine an opulent ball given by the Imperial Romanovs being drafty. How tacky!

1903 Ball Women's costumes collage 3The entire Imperial family posed in the Hermitage’s theater for what was to be their last photograph together.

last Romanov family pic 1903 ballSince I mentioned champagne, an interesting side note from your Blog Hostess the Champagne Whore: Cristal was invented exclusively for Tsar Alexander II in 1876. Given the political unrest at the time, he insisted his bubbly bottled in clear glass should there be a bomb inside. Louis Roederer commissioned a Flemish glass-maker to create such a bottle, with a flat bottom instead of the traditional punt. (The “punt” is that conical indent at the bottom of all wine bottles and–yes–they do vary from bottle to bottle.)

1903 Ball Costume collageWhile Alexander II never received his nefarious champagne cocktail, Nicholas II was shaking his own like a paint-mixer. Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovitch recalls the gala event as “the last spectacular ball in the history of the empire…[but] a new and hostile Russia glared through the large windows of the palace…while we danced, the workers were striking and the clouds in the Far East were hanging dangerously low.”

more 1903 Winter Ball CostumesWhich costume is your favorite? What about best kokoshnik?

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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13 Responses to Ko-ko-koshnik Time Machine! the 1903 Winter Ball

  1. Angelyn says:

    wow–costumes from the museum. There’s something kind of eerie about the whole affair. Happy Halloween!


  2. beautycalyptique says:

    yes, that sounds like something very russian to do. we don’t really value the past until it’s really gone. only then we start being sentimental and teary.

    beautifully told!


  3. yakinamac says:

    What does that chap in the 8th photo have in his right hand?? Hope he didn’t hit the Cristal – things could have got ugly.


  4. aubrey says:

    Last set of costumes, first row, far right – I think that might be my favorite costume, while the head dress worn by the middle attendee – photo set before the group photo – would be my favorite topper.

    That group photo, by the way, reminds me of the photos taken at the large wealthy houses during the country house weekends, when the ladies and gentlemen proudly display the slaughter after their country sport. This is much better – prettier wearables and not a dead grouse in sight!


  5. Pingback: #ThrowbackFashion Afternoon dress Madame Grès (Alix Barton) (French, Paris 1903–1993 Var region) | DUC C. NGUYÊN BLOG

  6. Pingback: #ThrowbackFashion Evening Ensemble, 1968 by Madame Grès (Alix Barton) (French, Paris 1903–1993 Var region) | DUC C. NGUYÊN BLOG

  7. Pingback: 1903: o último grande baile da Rússia imperial | Rainhas Trágicas

  8. Pingback: Tartarian Fashion – Hidden in Plain Sight

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