Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Empress Alexandra’s Wardrobe on 2nd Floor Mezzanine of the Winter Palace

In 1896, Empress Alexandra’s wardrobe was located on the mezzanine above the on-duty maids’ room on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace. The window looked out onto the small inner courtyard.

Alexandra had brought her senior chamber maid, Magdalene Zanotti, with her from Darmstadt. In Petra Kleinpenning’s book “The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig”, Alexandra wrote her brother on May 14th, 1895 “… After a month or so we shall be sending a Feldjager again to fetch Madelaine [from Darmstadt] & what else remains of my things …”

M. Zanotti was in charge of the Empress’ wardrobe and jewellery and had eight maids under her. Their on-duty room was next to the staircase off the Imperial bedroom. The maids kept leather-bound books cataloguing every article of clothing in detail.

On October 27th, 1917 Vasily Vereshchagin, the Chairman of the Art Commission, and Alexander Benois inspected many of the rooms of the Winter Palace. In his diary on October 28th, A. Benois wrote “… Suffered relatively little the private rooms of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna … surprise yet were wardrobes, which were full of Alexandra’s dresses and have not been touched, dresses hung in perfect order …”

Benois’ description differs from N. Dementiev’s, the caretaker of the property room of the Winter Palace, who had inspected the rooms on October 28th. He wrote in his report “… In the wardrobe of the Empress opened all the cupboards; dresses and underwear are randomly scattered on the floor and on the table…” Photographs taken on November 7th, 1917 confirms Dementiev’s version.

Photograph (below) of Alexandra’s Wardrobe on November 7th, 1917

In the 1970s, two ground-breaking books revealed the life of the Imperial Family to the west; Robert Massie’s “Nicholas and Alexandra” and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ “In the Russian Style”.

It was fascinating to read the details of Jacqueline Onassis’ research trip to Leningrad with Thomas Hoving. Although famous, she was frustratingly stymied in her attempts to look ‘behind the palace doors’. At Pavlovsk, she was shown Alexandra’s wardrobe and was permitted to try on her coat.

Photograph (below) of Jacqueline Onassis in Empress Alexandra’s Coat – Pavlovsk Museum 1976

Photographs (below) of Alexandra’s dresses, morning robe, gloves, stockings


  1. So sad to see the destruction and yet so beautiful to see Alexandra's gowns at the American time. I wonder how Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis felt trying on her cape? It must have seemed magical!

    1. I don't think she should worn Alexandra's gown or coats. That poor woman was murdered along with her children, I just find it odd that Jacqueline would want it on her body. Just my opinion, I read the book on the Romanov's recently, maybe I'm still very sad about the whole tragedy.

    2. I have been there and seen the wardrobe. The short trains of the dresses even still had dirt on them from where they dragged across the ground when Alexandra wore them.

    3. That was a problem for ladies in those years with their long dresses. It must have be even dirtier for their coats walking outside.

  2. It would have been awesome to hear the exerience from Jackies own mouth!

  3. I am curious if Jacqueline Onassis notes and photographs on her trip to Leningrad are held in the JFK library in Boston or in the Metropolitan Museum where she assisted in the Costume Exhibition with Diana Vreeland. Thomas Hoving wrote of Pavlovsk but his archive will contain more information - is it held at the MET?

  4. Actually, I find an element of omen in it. Maybe she identified with her due to the tragedy in her own life?

  5. Bad taste for sure and that is putting it mildly.

  6. Funny isn't it Alexandra look regal in this , poor old Jacky looks anything but.

  7. The clothes of Nicholas and Alexandra in the Winter Palace, their servants and from other palaces were transferred to the theatres for their historical production. Many can still be seen in their storerooms. The clothes from the Alexander Palace and other suburban palaces were used in 1941 as wrapping to protect valuable items that were being shipped out of harms way. The coat that Jacqueline Onassis tried on was one of the items used to save the Imperial Family's things in the Alexander Palace.