c. 1924

Silk embroidered with beads and silk thread

Acquired from the costume designer Dinah Collin

The angular positioning of the embroidery on this dress – the vertical bands of beaded motifs down the centre front of the bodice, and the horizontal drawn thread work across the skirt – accentuates its loose, straight, unstructured shape. Also apparent is the influence of regional ‘folk’ dress on contemporary fashion. The textured silk suggests home-spun fabric and the seemingly simple embroidery stitches those employed from generation to generation in rural communities. In 1921 the Russian emigrée Grand Duchess Maria Pavlova Romanova, a cousin of Czar Nicholas II, established the House of Kitmar in Paris, an embroidery business providing employment for fellow Russians fleeing the revolution. Their work, based on traditional patterns, was enthusiastically incorporated into the designs of the influential couturière Coco Chanel who produced a Russian themed collection in 1922 aimed at a sophisticated clientèle already attuned to Russian arts through the appearances of the Ballets Russes in their city. (See an example from the collection here).

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