Grand Peterhof Palace was turned into filming area

Exhibition "How dressed the great silent cinema"? Photo: Press-service of Peterhof

From December 21, 2016 till March 26, 2017 in the Big Peterhof Palace will be opened an exhibition dedicated to fashion of the late XIX – early XX century, which is called “How dressed the Great mute cinema?”. Usually, silent movie actors: Vera Kholodnaya, Vera Karalli, Sophia Goslavsky were the instigators of the style of costume and accessories of the time.

70 items of evening, wedding and output of the ladies and gentleman: capes, capes, talmy, sortie de Bal, accessories, tuxedos and business cards combined footage from silent movies. In the Throne room of the Palace there is a demonstration of one of the Lumiere brothers films as the reminder of how in 1896 the Lumiere showed his creation to Nicholas II and his court.

The collection, which Peterhof museum introduces to its visitors, is the collection of the St. Petersburg collector Natalia Kostrigina. The owner of the treasure has kindly agreed to tell to cultural-political magazine “E-Vesti” about the collection.

Dress from N. Kostrygina collection, late XIX- early XX centuries. Photo: Press-service of Peterhof
Dress from N. Kostrygina collection, late XIX- early XX centuries. Photo: Press-service of Peterhof

E-Vesti: Natalia, tell us, please, why you started to collect costumes of the Silent cinema epoque?

N. Kostrygina: My collection “Ladies’ civil costume of the mid-19th – early 20th century” is a collection of costumes not exactly of the period of silent movies, but it includes a period of silent cinema. We keep dresses and other items of women’s clothing, which were common before the advent of silent movies… Another thing is that on 20 December in the Great Palace Museum Peterhof opened a exhibition “How dressed the Great mute cinema?”, dedicated to silent cinema. In this bright, wonderful event were involved 70 items of historical costume from my collection. These 70 business, wedding, pleasure outfits tell the audience how were dressed people in “the great mute cinema” period.

What prompted me 20 years ago to start collecting the clothes of the beauties of the Imperial St. Petersburg?! It was a occasion. It was happy, because it resulted to make a collection of 450 items.

E-Vesti: How accurately people reproduced images from movies?

N. Kostrygina: At first time the silent film stars acted in their own dresses or sewed it specially by tailors, but it became their own dresses sewed for themselves. Later, painters of the costume started ordering some dresses, in order to reveal nature of the character movie better. Of course, the ladies wanted to be like their favorite silent movie stars and has borrowed styles and items of clothing. How exactly? Today we are borrowing something like: color, style, details.

E-Vesti: Ladies of that time oftenly ordered stylists repetition of images seen in movies, or still wanted to get an exclusive design?

N. Kostrygina: I think fashion magazines from Paris, London and of course St. Petersburg played its role. People always wanted to be fashionable and to know about novelties. In Saint-Peterburg, on Nevsky prospect, worked fashion shops, haberdashery shops with regularly updated range. You could always buy a fashionable hat, a French fan and silk shoes. In Imperial St. Petersburg contemporaries knew the ladies of the higher society, which served as model to follow. It would be awful to come to the ball in a dress similar to the other dress, or even similarly decorated. So, everyone tried to make a suit that particular type of fabric, color, lace, embroidery and so on. However, in the early 20th century, vivid images from the movies was needed and they came.

Fragment of dress from N. Kostrygina collection, late XIX- early XX centuries. Photo: Press-service of Peterhof
Fragment of dress from N. Kostrygina collection, late XIX- early XX centuries. Photo: Press-service of Peterhof

E-Vesti: Do You know the owner of those dresses and accessories that keep?

N. Kostrygina: From literature, cinema, beautiful portraits I’m well imagine the image of women, whose outfits I so carefully kept for many years. Social class, money wealth, day schedule, occupation, hobbies – all this you can imagine. But the exact names, year of birth and the details of the life of fashionable women of the 19th-20th centuries, the hosts of our outfits, have not survived. Granddaughter got beautiful things from attics and closets, but nobody in the family knows whom they belonged and generally how they came to storage.

However, there are a few exceptions: in collection there is white Batiste dress on pink lining. Its history is known in the family and kept us in memories. One day in 1914 two beautiful young girls-sisters where vacationing in Odessa in the summer. In memory of happy summer days youth and the sea they bought matching dresses: one was pink, the other was blue lining. In the difficult days after the revolution, one of the sisters got married in this dress, because she already had no possibility to sew a new one. This dress passed down in the family from generation to generation. Every outfit had a mysterious history, but we often don’t know it, unfortunately.

E-Vesti: Does Your collection contain originals owned by the actors of the movie?

N. Kostrygina: Most likely, there are. But we still can’t prove it.