Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Catherine the Great’s Wardrobe

How easy it is to repeat the foibles of historical figures with source(s) taken for granted as truth.

Prince Alexander Golitsyn was an old friend of Nicholas I and Alexandra and guardian of their children when they were away. He was a former page to Catherine the Great and they ‘never tired listening to his stories about the Empress’.

Painting  (below) of Catherine the Great c1779

On Thursday August 22nd 1835 Grand Duke Alexander, his sister Maria and their entourage made an expedition to Duderof, Krasnoe Selo. In the carriage with Prince Golitsyn was Maria Merder, the daughter of the grand duke’s tutor. She wrote the following story in her diary as told to her by the prince.

Catherine the Great never complained about her servants especially the females. While undressing one evening, the empress expressed her pleasure with the new gown to her wardrobe maid saying she wished always to be dressed the same way. The maid, hoping to please, immediately ordered twelve of the same outfit. When Catherine for the sixth time put on an identical gown, she asked with surprise what it meant. Upon hearing she was the unwitting cause, she good-naturedly laughed. ‘Let the people think it is my fantasy because you cannot throw money down the drain with the need to replace the dresses for me’.

Painting and photographs (below) of Catherine the Great's Dresses

There are a limited number of portraits of Catherine from the 1790s. Did she adopt the simple empire style of clothing originating in France? Or did the empress continue wearing the elaborate style of Marie Antoinette that we are familiar with?

My book will disclose what happened to Catherine’s wardrobe in the 1820s.


  1. Great post Joanna! Just wondering, what was the thing called that Catherine used under her gowns to make it flare out the way it did?
    Ghostie x

  2. Ghostie, it was a pannier (side hoops). Quelle horreur!

  3. Thanks Joanna, Quelle horreur indeed!
    Ghostie x

  4. Dear Joanna, hello! That should be a very interesting story. May I kindly ask regarding this book? Is it available to order!? Wish you all the best. Best regards, Anton Kramar.

  5. "My book will disclose what happened to Catherine’s wardrobe in the 1820s."

    They were used as tents by the Russian Army.