The Costumer's Manifesto
Visiting The Costume Collections of St. Petersburg
'Note: This article was written in January 1995, for TheLady's Gallery. Although it was accepted, and they did not return my colorphotros before their demise, it did not appear before the journal folded. Small portions of this article were edited andaltered by my third editor at the St.Petersburg Press, and made into the shortarticle
"The Empress' Old Clothes". Prices inrubles quoted in the article are now completely out of date, given a yearly inflation rate inRussia of about 100%, but the dollar prices rise a bit more slowly than that, and may onlyhave risen about 30%. You may print this article out for yourconvenience for travel planning.'
The St. Petersburg area has many museums to interest the visitorto Russia, not the least of which are those museums either partly or wholly devoted tocostume. Russian costume museum collections usually differ markedly in style and contentfrom Western collections, and consequently are additionally interesting because of their"unusual" nature.
The Ethnographic Museum:
For example, the most spectacular display of costume inSt. Petersburg is at the Russian Ethnographical Museum (formerly the EthnographicMuseum of the Peoples of the USSR). The Ethnographic Museum was originally a part of theRussian Museum (which is next door) built prior to the 1917 Revolution, however in 1934 itbecame a separate entity as, under Stalin, the study, display and enshrinement ofindigenous folk arts of the USSR was used to serve political ends.
Unlike English costume museums, which tend to focus on history,or French ones that stick to costume as couture, Russian costume museums under the Sovietsprimarily collected costume as proletarian artwork. As a result Russia has the best museumcollections of "folk" costume worldwide, with the Ethnographic Museum inSt. Petersburg considered to be the preeminent one of its kind. The museum displays awhopping total of 250,000 objects of folk art, mostly dated from the late 19th and early20th centuries. A large percentage of these are costumes, jewelry, costume accessories andtextiles. The museum also houses rotating exhibits of contemporary folk arts.
All the costumes on display are of uniformly high quality. Mostparticularly notable are the costumes in the hall devoted to ethnic Russian peasant dress.Routinely you can find art and design students in this hall sketching the costumes forclass projects or for sale to the main Museum gift shop. Also on display are items fromthe other Republics which made up the former USSR. A particularly spectacular Chukchi(Eastern Siberian) Shaman's garment is on display on the second floor of the West wing,and should on no account be missed. There is also a constant rotation of small newexhibits (now there is a display of restored antique fans) that help to make up for anequal rotation of small sections of the main collection being closed, presumably formaintenance.
The "Ethno" Museum is one of the best under-visitedtourist attractions in the city. Despite being in the very center of St.Petersburg,scarcely a block from the Grand Hotel Europe, it is never crowded even in the height oftourist season or on weekends. As a result, the lady security guards, far from turninginto scowling watchdogs (as those stuck in the more overcrowded museums do) are dying totalk and show their treasures. And it is also one of the cheaper museums for the foreigntourist to visit. Solely in the main collection there is enough to interest the costumeenthusiast for an entire day. It is helpful to bring along a pocket Russian dictionary,since all museum captions are in Russian (as they are in all the museums), but generallythe costumes speak for themselves.
The management of the Ethnographic Museum has moved with thetimes, and is installing high quality new exhibits in the place of some rather tediouspolitically motivated ones left from it's former Soviet self. To raise capital to pay forimprovements the museum maintains three gift buying locations: A main gift shop withmodern folk crafts and books, a small hall displaying St. Petersburg style floral beadworkjewelry, and a textile arts demonstration area in the Russian hall that sells the productsof demonstrations.
If you have extra cash, or all day to see the whole museum, orbetter still both, in addition to the main exhibit (which is almost endless) there are two"extra" exhibits that cost 5000p ($1.50) each to enter. One is the hard to find"Gold Hall" which houses the highly valuable jewelry and jewel encrusted costumeaccessories of the collection in a bank vault type space. This exhibit shows many of themagnificent examples of folk jewelry you may have seen in the book Russian Jewelry fromthe 16th through 20th Centuries. Take a right towards the Russian hall, then, beforethe entrance take a left into the Ukrainian hall, then turn right. The Gold room is hiddenat the far end of the hall, through a small doorway.
[The Ethnographic Museum is sending their "Gold Room" objects out on tour! See them at their new official web site:
You may only tour the Gold room in tiny groups, with a guide. Toguarantee a spot, and get your tour in English, book one day in advance. The other extraexhibit is in the central Marble Hall, between the two main galleries. This hall housesrotating exhibits, whose content and quality tend to vary. However, at present, there is atrue "blockbuster" exhibit in the space, the "Emperor's Collection,"which has all that glitters in the way of costume and jeweled objects. Especially lovelyare a group of Tartar robes, with highly ornate embroidery. Also interesting is a group ofchina figures depicting the costumes of the various ethnic regions of the Russian Empire.This is not the well known late 18th Century set formerly on display at the Hermitage, buta 1908-1913 set with far greater detail. This display too has a rare 19th Century EvenskiiShaman-woman costume, and some spectacular Russian costumes and textiles.
The Ethnographic Museum collection.
Gallery at the CatherinePalace:
The next most impressive permanent costume display in the areais not in St. Petersburg itself, but at the Catherine Palace in the outlying town ofPushkin (formerly Tzarkoe Selo) the nearby summertime residence of the Tsar and his court.The Catherine Palace and Park in Pushkin is the tourist destination which visitors to thecity most often rave about. And no wonder, located slightly inland from the swampyriverfront areas all the other attractions lie on, it enjoys cool unpolluted Springs andSummers, golden Falls, and sugar frosting Winters. If the weather is bad in St.Petersburgit will be nice in Pushkin, if the weather in the city is good, the weather in Pushkinwill be even better. The town also possesses terrific Pre-Revolutionary architecture,beautiful old tree lined streets, and several good restaurants.
The central attraction in Pushkin is the Catherine Park, alarge, lovely, and well maintained 18th Century royal playground. In the Park is theCatherine Palace, the most aesthetic and comfortable of the royal palaces in the area. Toone side of the main Palace is the Cameron Gallery, built for Catherine II, and nowhousing the
Costume Gallery also known as the"Everyday Life Costumes and Articles of Russia from the End of the 18th to theBeginning of the 20th Centuries, Court Costumes, Civil Costumes, Court Servant's Costumesand the Costumes of the [military] Schools" Exhibit. While the display techniques ofthis exhibit are antiquated, and the Gallery ill-suited to the purpose, the costumesthemselves are wonderful.
The exhibit contains a great deal of royal costume including themilitary dress of the Tzars beginning with Catherine II
In the "Everyday Life" section is a quantity ofbeautiful upper class men's and women's clothing
. As with all "historical" costume collections in Russia, historyabruptly ends in 1917. The history of costume since 1917 in Russia has not yet beenwritten or collected for museum display, and is only just beginning (in books like SovietTextiles 1918-1939, or Revolutionary Costume) to be unearthed.
Interestingly, except for those costumes worn by the Tsar andhis family, the explanatory captions in the Costume Gallery again focus on the costumes asthe "work of Russian craftsmen" rather than who wore them. Even thisoverwhelmingly royalist, aristocratic display, has in it a bow to the old Soviet politicalagenda.
While you are there also take time to tour the interior of thePalace and the grounds of the Park. The Catherine Palace, is a beautifully restored andfurnished example of 18th Century Russian Baroque style. The Palace, in addition to manyspectacular rooms, houses both a royal portrait gallery and a special exhibit gallery. Thespecial exhibit gallery periodically shows items of a costume nature, such as Fabergejewelry, or this year, The "Tsarkoe Selo in the Age of Catherine The Great"exhibit which includes some dress uniforms belonging to Catherine. The main palace alsohas a guest court of high quality souvenir shops with the best amber jewelry selection inthe area.
Another important display of ethnic costume is the collectionknown variously as the Kunstkamera, or "The Peter The Great Museum ofAnthropology and Ethnography". The Kunstkamera houses one of the larger displaysof ethnic costume in the world, with particularly strong collections in the indigenousdress of
Alaskan costumes (like Siberian costumes) are especiallyinteresting for their creative use of unusual materials: fish skin, bird skin, metal andbone fetishes, intestines, furs, and leathers. Connoisseurs of Indian and Eskimo maskswill find that many of the best examples oftenshown in books on the subject were photographed here. The Alaskan collection includes oneof the less than half a dozen folding-cup style suits of "armor" in a collection(used by costal Eskimos to defend against raids by the technologically advanced andwarlike Tlingit tribes of the South-East). The Tlingit Indians, (who formed the mainopposition to the Russian Invasion) are also well represented with armor, hats, masks,Three Chilcat blankets
(heraldicrobes), and a rare Raven's Tail blanket.
And this is only the Alaskan section. The Native peoples of therest of North America, Oceania, Australia, Asia, and Africa are also represented throughcostume. The museum shows a set of full royal regalia (executed in feathers) worn by KingKameamea I of Hawaii, two rare Pomo (California) Indian feathered dance robes, a set ofEast Indian theatrical costumes, a straw Maori heraldic blanket-robe, two sets of Samuraiarmor, and a host of Asian costumes of all kinds. There is also a new, modern gallerysection (no extra cost) showing the prizes of the museum's collection of Siberian andAlaskan ivory carvings, the preeminent one of it's kind worldwide.
Except for this section, display techniques are pretty much 19thCentury style, however, this turns to one's advantage, since these methods are highlyspace-conserving, you get to see quite a lot of objects considering the relatively smallsize of the museum.
The museum, having been founded by Peter I (and built from1718-34), also contains two suits worn by Peter I, as well as a bronze copy of his deathmask. The Kunstkamera was the first public museum in Russia, and began with scientificallyeducational displays from Peter's own collection. It's purpose was to disseminateknowledge of the latest tools, machines, exotic stuffed animals, rare books, atlases andarcheological finds on display there. The Academy of Sciences was originally located inthis building as well, and the most eminent 18th Century Academician, Mikhail Lomonsov, ismemorialized in a small museum inside the Kunstkamera under the top of the central dome.Downstairs, also under the dome, is an interesting, if repulsive, display of pickleddeformed fetuses and animals that were one of the original displays from the early 18thCentury. As two headed baby collections go, it appears to be quite a varied and extensiveone, highly popular with school children, if not quite what you'd usually expect to findbetween two galleries of crafts and costumes of Japan and Africa.
There are also two extra upstairs galleries that rotate exhibitson a variety of archeological and ethnographic subjects. Costs vary depending on theexhibit. The museum does not as yet maintain a gift shop, (although Chinese jewelry andobjects are sold at a small table on the stairs,) but one appears to be under the laststages of construction, and should hopefully appear soon.
New Web site!
The next spectacular display of costumes is usually at the HermitageMuseum (The former "Winter Palace"). I say usually, because the Hermitage,despite having a large costume collection, does not maintain a constant display, butrather rotates in a new display about once a year. This means if you arrive betweendisplays there may be no costumes whatever on view. However, for much of the year there isa display of some kind, and due to the incredibly rich collection of the museum, it isoften of an almost "blockbuster" quality.
Last Summer, for instance they showed the costumes made in 17thCentury style for the famous 1903 Romanov Anniversary Ball as part of an exhibit,"Nicholas and Alexandra". Most of these costumes had never been on display sincethat time. The year before was a large display of ladies couture and court gowns1890-1910, many of which were worn by the last two Tsarinas.
There is also a constant display of Western European armordating from 1400-1700 in the "New Hermitage" section, Rm. 243, 2nd floor. TheHermitage is also one of the largest museums in the world, on a par with theLouvre. This means you had best comeearly, wear comfortable footgear, and plan on spending a whole day or two on walking it.Apart from the many beautiful public rooms of the palace (throne rooms, ballrooms, all theusual), there are dozens of rooms of simple gallery space, including everything from ivoryminiatures to Impressionist canvases. It is only slightly less extensive than the Louvre,and a great deal more confusing because of being more compact. It is however, an easierwalk.
On the down side, the Hermitage itself also charges a relativelyhigh admission to foreigners, and higher than usual prices for bringing in cameras. Giftshopping at the Hermitage is still in it's embryonic stages-there are very many small giftcounters and one large shop, but their goods are high priced and have no reference to thecostume collection.
The Theatre Museum and Library:
On a more modest scale are the Museum of Theatrical andMusical Arts and the Theatre Library, located behind the Alexandinsky Theatre.While the Museum is small, (only 4 rooms) and slightly old fashioned, it has rotatingexhibits of costumes and renderings on display at all times, and is moreover quite cheapto enter, only 2000p (60c). Taking photos is only 2000p as well. Guards are happy todouble as guides (in Russian) and are quite helpful.
Display material comes chiefly from the adjacent TheatreLibrary: Right now they are hosting an exhibit of the costume renderings of Golovin, bestknown in the West for his designs for Diagalev, which has been entirely drawn from theLibrary archives. For research purposes it should be noted that the Library has, inaddition to an impressive theatre book collection in all languages, one of the world'slargest costume and set rendering collections in the world. Because the library was theformer office & library of the old Imperial Theatres, this includes nearly all thedesigns done for the Imperial Theaters from the 18th through 20th Centuries.
After 1917 other theatre and film designers donated renderingson a voluntary basis, and so there is no shortage of designs to fill out the postRevolutionary period either. There is also a substantial collection of pre-18th Centuryrenderings of European designs for Opera and Ballet, collected by the Imperial Theatre inthe 19th Century. This even includes some as yet unattributed sketches of Inigo Jones.
Museum of Artillery:
There are a few more interesting military uniforms to be seen atthe Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signals, aesthetically located in an oldfort between the Peter and Paul Fortress and Lenin Park. The general museum exhibitincludes small amounts of uniform, armor and medals along with the arms and armaments ofeach period. However it is in the special exhibit "Crown and Cloak" that themost interesting garments are kept. Like at the Costume Gallery at the Catherine Palace,this exhibit displays a small selection of military uniforms and uniform portraits ofRussian Tsars and their families from Peter I to Nicholas II. Also on display are militaryorders worn by the Royal family. The museum is host to two small gift booths, one withbooks on military history, the other with military model kits and reproduction medals atreasonable prices.
NEW!!!! The Theatre of the Architectural Interior of St.Petersburg (known as the "Intierney" Theatre for short) now has a fabulousdisplay of masks, renderings, and costumes on public view, including a large hall devotedto their famous set of costumes representing the buildings, statues and monuments of St.Petersburg. This display includes an 18th Century style court dress in the form ofthe Kunstkamera Museum, Peter the Great on his Bronze horse, Dom Knigi, etc. as aswearables. To get there go to the North side (Sunny side) of Nevsky Prospekt , nearthe Aphrodite Restaurant, opposite the Mayakovskaya Metro (more or less) and look for adoorway that looks like this.
If you are still hungry for more, there are just a few morecostume scrapings in the barrel: You can see some more theatrical costumes at the ChaliapinMemorial Museum, which houses the personal effects (including several opera costumes)of the great singer. If after the Ethno Museum and Kunstkamera, you still haven't seenenough circumpolar costume, there is also a small display of it on the top floor of TheMuseum of the Arctic and Antarctic, a barely visited antique of a museum. Most amusingabout this museum's display is the c.1930 "modern" Chukchi needlework, featuringSoviet era stories done with traditional materials and style. If you long to see moresuits worn by Peter the Great, go to Peter the Great's Cabin, a wonderful littlewooden house (the first in St. Petersburg), bizarrely preserved inside a brick building.Or, even better, see the Summer Palace of Peter the Great, with even more Petrineoutfits, in an un ostentatious little palace in the beautiful Summer Garden near the towncenter. For further information go to the appendix at the end of this article.
For pictures of the costume collection at the Hermitage, visitthe book stores on Nevsky Prospekt and look for The Art of Costume in Russia from the18th to 20th Centuries. This classic book has not gone out of print since itspublication in the 1970's, is available in a variety of languages (and with severaldifferent titles and covers) and shows the highlights of the Hermitage costume collectionin clear, full color photographs. If seeing the Ethnographic Museum has made you wantphotos of it's costume displays look for National Costumes of the Peoples of the USSR (alsopublished as Folk Costumes of the USSR), and Russian Jewelry from the 16th to20th Centuries also to be found in these shops. The best book shops for tourists aremainly located on both sides of Nevsky around Gertsina Ul. This includes Maska("Mask"-Art books, & supplies for makeup & costume, at #13), Mir("World"-Books in foreign languages at #13 also), Mir's branch Izkustva Magazine("Art Shop"-books, posters and quality souvenirs, across from the main store),
Dom Knigi ("House of Books"),located in the Art Nouveau style Singer building on Nevsky opposite Kazan Cathedral at#28, is the largest in the city, but stocked less for tourists than locals. It is best forgetting the inexpensive and newly published Rysskee Narodnee Kostum (RussianNational Costume), and modern Russian fashion journals like Style, and Evain the technical book department. If your trip to Pushkin has whetted an appetite forbooks on military costume, there is also a Dom Voennoy Knigi ("House of MilitaryBooks") on the north side of Nevsky at the corner of Bolshaya Konyushennaya, whichstocks art books, military history books, and general interest works. There are dozensmore, scattered on Nevsky and Liteny Prospekts, Marata Ul., and around town.
If you are looking for Russian ethnic costumes to bring home,#51 "Art Boutique" on the South side of Nevsky has quite a lot for sale. A fewdoors West from #51, next to the Titan theatre (#47) is a shop without a posted number orname, specializing in wearable art and Russian folk jewelry. Handmade Russian lace isavailable in most gift shops, including the above two, but the biggest selection at lowprices is at
Gostiny Dvor ("Guest Yard" the biggest, oldest department store intown at #35) on the 2nd floor, West side. Russian jewelry is also available mosteverywhere, with good prices at the shop-with-no-name and the Mir bookstores. To getmodern Russian military buttons and insignia at low prices go to the Voennyy Univermag("Military Department Store",) about a block East at #67 Nevsky Pr. For actualpieces of uniform, unfortunately you must usually buy on the street where it is openlytolerated, but technically illegal. You can however, legally, and cheaply ($4, much lessthan the on-the-street price), buy Russian sailor shirts in Gostiny Dvor.
Appendix of Practical Information:
Russian Ethnographical Museum: Walk from Nevsky Prospekt Metro station across the street to Mikhail Ul. (the street of the Grand Hotel Europe), go down one block to Arts Square (Statue of Pushkin), then skirt around the square to the right, 1/3 of the way, to the big yellow neoclassical building on Inzhenernaya Ul (#4/1). Unless there is a banner for a special exhibition, usually there is only a small plaque to identify the building, and the door is nearly always forbiddingly closed, but the Museum is open Tues.-Sun. 10-6, except for the last Friday of each month. Give the door a very firm shove to open it! Main museum entry is only 2500p (75c), taking photos only costs 1000p (30c), and permission to video is only 2000p (60c), the Gold Hall and Marble Hall are 5000p extra each for entry, no photos allowed.
Costume Gallery at the Catherine Palace in Pushkin: Take the Metro to Pushkinskaya, then catch the commute train on the right side of the Vitabesky Station to Pushkin. From there take any one of buses 371, 373, 378, 380, 381, 382, or 473 to the Catherine Park. There is a charge to enter the Park in Summer (usually about $1), but the park is free once the snow flies and the statues are covered in boxes. From the main entrance follow the signs past the Main Palace to the Cameron Gallery. Entrance for foreigners to the Costume Gallery is 3500p ($1.10). You can also take photos or video for only 800p (25c) or 3200p ($1) respectively. Summer hours are Wed.-Sun. 11-5, Winter hours are weekends only 11-5. The Catherine Palace is more expensive, 16,500p ($5) for foreigners, 10,000p ($3) for students, 23,000p ($7) for video, 10,000p ($3) for photos. Rotating exhibits vary in cost.
Kunstkamera: To get there take trolley bus 7 or 10 North from Nevsky Prospekt metro station, get off just after you cross the river, and walk along the blue-green building (the Museum) 1/2 block till you can turn right to the first side street. The Kunstkamera entrance is on this side street at #3 Universitetskaya Nab. Hours are 11-5 Sun.-Wed. This means it's closed Thurs., Fri., and Sat. However, in Summer they also open on Thursdays. The Museum is also closed on the last day of each month for cleaning. Please note, since this is a popular museum for family outings, going on Sunday is not recommended unless you genuinely like screaming small-fry. The museum displays, such as pickled deformed babies, preserved heads of tatooed Maori tribesmen, and "topless" mannequins in native dress, get the kids very excited and rowdy. Weekdays, when the kids are in the charge of guides and teachers, are more placid and less crowded. Admission is 7000p ($2.30) for foreigners, no student rates or pictures allowed.
Hermitage: Take the Metro to Nevsky Prospekt/Gostiny Dvor station. Exit to Nevsky Prospekt, then hike North-West towards the gold Admiralty spire. Just before you get there you will see a street going off to the right (Ul. Gertsina) towards a yellow arch, head through it. On the other side will be a big square with an angel-topped column in the center (Palace Sq.) and a big peacock green building behind it. The building is The Hermitage. Skirt round to the left to the opposite (river) side for the entrance. Alternatively, for those not up to walking, take the 10 or 7 trolley bus at Nevsky and get off at Palace Square. Hours of operation theoretically are posted as Tuesday through Sunday, 10:30-6, but in fact you'll usually find yourself inexorably being herded towards the exit by the guards a little after 5. On Sunday the herding happens at 4-4:30, and it is a waste of time to argue the point! Rates are 28,000p ($8.50) for foreigners, 16,000p ($5) for foreign students. Guided tours cost somewhat more. To bring in a camera you'll need to pay 25,000p ($7.50) for video and 9,000p ($2.60) for a still camera. Most gallery parts of the museum are "no photo" spots anyway, bring in cameras only for the big spectacular palace rooms. If your Russian is very good you also can sometimes sweet talk the guards into letting you take photos in "forbidden" spots anyway, providing it's not too crowded. This is actually true of many museums in Russia, they have a saying: "It's forbidden, but, not if you really want to." In Summer and weekends the museum tends to crowd up and heat up till the guards get quite testy. Never attempt the Hermitage on a warm weekend afternoon in Summer, it is quite miserable.
Theatre Museum and Library: the Museum is located at #20 Ostrovsky Sq. up on the 3rd floor. Hours of operation are 11-6 Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and 1-7 on Wednesday. All Tuesdays, and the last Friday of each month are closed to the public. The Library is mercifully on the first floor, next door, to the right, in the old Imperial Theaters' main office. Bring a Russian friend and your passport if you want to use the Library. To become a regular library patron for more than one visit you will also need to provide a small photograph for mounting on a library card. To get there take the Metro to Nevsky Prospekt, head South-East, away from the gold Admiralty spire, till you see a park on your right. In the park will be a large sculpture of Catherine II with her courtiers at her feet. Go past this, and past the big yellow and white theatre. On the left, behind the rear of the theatre is #20.
Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signals: Go to Gorkovskaya Metro, exit to your right through Lenin Park, then just as you see the bridge entrance to the Peter and Paul Fortress (big brick wall with gold church spire) turn right again along the embankment. The Museum will be on your right in another brick fort. The Museum is open 11-5 Wed.-Sun except for the last Thursday of each month. Admission is 3000p (95c) for foreigners, 1000p (30c) for students. The exhibit "Crown and Cloak" is 5000p ($1.50) for foreigners and 3000p (95c) for foreign students.
Small Museums: the Chaliapin Memorial Museum is at 2b, Graftio Ul., and is open Thursdays 1-9pm, and Wed., Fri.-Sun. from 11am-7pm. Take Metro to Petrogradskaya, then autobus #46 North on Kamennoostrovsky Pr.to Graftio Ul..The Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic is at the corner of Marata Ul. and Kuznechnyy Per., walk from Vladimirskaya Metro one block East on Kuznechnyy Per. Peter the Great's Cabin is at #6 Petrovskaya Embankment, open 10-6 Wed.-Mon., with a lunch break closing from 1:30-2:30, and an all day "cleaning" closing on the last day of each month. To get there go to Gorkovskaya Metro, then hike south through Lenin Park to the embankment and turn left. The Summer Palace of Peter I is located in the Summer Garden, near Nevsky Prospekt/Gostiny Dvor Metro, and is open 10-1 every day. Walk the historic and scenic route from Nevsky at Sadovaya Ul. north past the Russian Ethnographical Museum, Engineer's Castle, and then through the Garden to the Summer Palace, overlooking the Neva. These museums are all cheap to enter. The most expensive, The Summer Palace, is only 4000p ($1.20) for foreigners, and 2000p (60c) for foreign students.
The Costumer's Manifesto is proudly hosted by OnlineCostumeStore.com
your online source for Halloween Costumes.
This Page is part of The Costumer's Manifesto
by , Ph.D. Copyright 1996-2007. You may print out any of these pages for non-profit educational use such as school papers, teacher handouts, or wall displays.You may link to any page in my site.