Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Russian Elegance: Book Review


Textiles, embroidery, fabric, clothing – a study of all of these in any given country’s history provides insight into the values and traditions of that have permeated a nation over the centuries.

Hand embroidery has played a significant role in the fashions, the arts, and the religious and cultural interests of most countries, in one way or another. And so, although I generally don’t get into “costuming” and the making of historical or re-creation clothing, I do love to study the records of historical fashion from different countries.

Russian Elegance Book Review

Russian Elegance: Country & City Fashion from the 15th to the Early 20th Century, written by Luisa Yefimova and Tatyana Aleshina and published by Vivays Publishing, is a remarkable, magnificent, stunning, beautiful – oh! the list can go on! – book that focuses on exactly what the title promises.

For the lover of historic clothing styles and fashion, the merits of the book will be instantly obvious. For the hand embroiderer, the attraction to a book on the history of fashion in Russia might not be as easily recognizable at first.

Russian Elegance Book Review

But wait until you open the book! Very quickly, the merits of such a book to the embroiderer become apparent!

The book is full of sumptuous examples of embroidery – from exquisitely embellished religious articles, to colorful needlework on traditional Russian peasant dresses, to exuberantly embroidered gowns, waistcoats, and accessories.

Russian Elegance Book Review

Each of the major pieces in the book is discussed in depth. The provenance of each piece is given in detail as well as a thorough description of materials and techniques, and then the whole explanation of where these pieces – their style, their construction, the materials used, and so forth – fit in the history of Russian clothing is further detailed in the text.

Russian Elegance Book Review

A couple years ago, I wrote about Larissa Borodich’s goldwork and pearl embroidery, and since then, I’ve had a fascination with needlework encrusted with pearls, precious metals and gemstones.

In Russian Elegance, you’ll find a good dose of this type of embellishment, with some fantastic close-ups of museum pieces. I found myself poring over these examples voraciously and reading everything about them. Beautiful, beautiful works of art!

Russian Elegance Book Review

Much of the beginning of the book is devoted to traditional Russian dress – the clothing worn by Russian peasants, by the middle class, and by the merchant class. Colorful, vivid clothing fill these pages! And inspiration abounds – the fabrics are flowered over with spectacular folk motifs. There are superabundant examples of embroidered shirts in vibrant color, of aprons and accessories, of trim.

Russian Elegance Book Review

Bespeckling the book, the little accessories here and there will capture the embroiderer’s interest, too.

Russian Elegance Book Review

The second part of the book moves into fashion influenced by Paris. Here, you’ll find extraordinary examples of embellished brocades and silks, of fine laces, of delicate whitework.

Russian Elegance Book Review

Hats and capes, shoes, flounces, dresses – all reflecting the highest of Parisian fashion and attesting to the skill and artistry of the Russian designers, seamstresses, embroiderers – fill the second part of the book.

Russian Elegance Book Review

The text throughout the book is interesting to read, and to help the reader keep track of the names of various articles relating to clothing, there’s an excellent glossary in the back of the book.

Russian Elegance Book Review

When I initially came across this book, I didn’t really know what to expect. I just knew that I wanted to see more of what was inside! And I wasn’t disappointed.

So, what will the hand embroiderer gain in the study of a book like Russian Elegance? I can promise you the churning of the Inspiration Wheel – the singing of the Muses – the flowering of creative thoughts! The embroidery and needlework you will see in this book is amazing! In addition, the text is interesting to read; learning about the development of clothing styles in Russia over the centuries will further enhance your appreciation for textiles, needlework, design.

You can find Russian Elegance on Amazon.

Book Depository is also carrying Russian Elegance, with free world-wide shipping to most countries.

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(10) Comments

  1. After reading your articles on Russian pearl embroidery and the article in Inspirations, I have tried to get a book. However, I have been unable to find any. Do you know of anything available with instructions, etc.?

  2. Dear Mary

    Thanks for this review what you’ve shown us is exquisite, the workmanship is amazing just imagine how long it must have taken to embroider those gowns. My favourite is accessories as I love antique handbags, and the pearls and precious stones needlework is outstanding. Certainly a book to must have so will be on my list of embroidery items to buy. The trouble is I need so much money now as there are so many needlework items to buy! sigh!.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. Thank you for reviewing these books on costuming and embroidery history! I love reading about history and a embroidery together, but you don’t find these books in your local bookstore.. I’ve already received the Boston book. Now I will have to order this one. I waited too long to order the Met’s catalog on their embroidery exhibit and now it is impossible to find.

  4. Ohmygosh, Mary …. That white dress on the cover is absolutely beautiful! I just stared at it for several minutes taking in every detail. Wow. Just gorgeous. To wear something like that would be incredible! (Can you tell I like the dress?) lol.

  5. G’day Mary,
    Wonderful. My little Granddaughter would look gorgeous in a small size of the dress like the one in your 5th photo, and I’d like a skirt from the cope 3rd photo! Thanks Mary, Cheers, Kath.

    1. For interested people, you can look inside the book on Amazon’s site. Pared down of course but showing more wonderful pictures and lots of index information.

  6. Wow! I, too, am really interested in bejeweled textiles and clothing. These look stunning. (My birthday is on Valentine’s Day, so I moved it to the top of my wish list. I was surprised at how affordable it is!) I have been embroidering small icons over the past few years (transferred to muslin/linen), slowly but surely in the hopes of making handmade prayer books for my godchildren and covenant sisters sometime in my lifetime. 🙂 This is when your 15-minute rule really helped me. I’m learning that we shouldn’t despise small beginnings; anything beautiful takes time (even one stitch at a time). Thanks for the book review! And Happy Saint Valentine’s Day.

  7. Great book!
    Somehow missed it in Russian, it was printed several years ago. And now Russian internet stores do not have it available. So, ordered the English version of it on Amazon.
    Thank you. Mary!
    P.S. Will be looking forward to your raised goldwork experiments!
    Your first hand information and expertise are vital for me.

  8. Hi Mary, what a wonderful book. Such beautiful pieces. The Russian certainly have a long history in textiles. I’m in love with the white dress on the cover.

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