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Tadashi Shoji’s Fall 2013 Collection Chronicles the Rise and Fall of the Russian Empire

The extravagance and excess that characterized the Imperial Court during Elizaveta Petrovna’s tenure as the Empress of Russia (and that of Catherine the Great, subsequently) in the mid 18th century inspired the Tadashi Shoji Fall 2013 collection. But Shoji’s collection didn’t focus exclusively on the grandeur of the era. Though many pieces did, in fact, recall the grandeur of the Winter Palace with its baroque-informed décor — from the detailed stucco work above façades and windows to the gilded moldings of the vaulted ceilings inside the Gold Drawing Room and the statue-crowned Corinthian columns inside the White Hall — there were others that addressed the more turbulent times ahead, when a series of military failures, compounded by growing poverty and food shortages, led to massive revolts that ultimately culminated in the fall of Nicholas II, Russia’s last tsar, and the demise of the country’s monarchic system. This was, in fact, a story about the rise and fall of the Russian Empire, a fashion tale of nobility and exile. Shoji, then, integrated references to the revolutionaries who partook in the Decembrist uprising of 1825 and were subsequently exiled to Siberia (among them Sergei Volkoski) and to their devoted wives, who abandoned their noble social stations in order to devotedly accompany their husbands, often donning peasant dress in lieu of their ornate frocks as disguises. He accomplished this feat by peppering the collection with folkloric elements that nodded to the embroidered rubashka shirts and sarafan dresses of yore.

The most delicious pieces in the collection were — no surprise here — the most extravagant. Arguably the most stunning piece was a white, long-sleeved beaded and lace tulle gown (pictured third above), which incorporated beaded, metallic lace juxtaposed above a strapless, form-fitting, white tulle bodice and a floor-length, column skirt with tiers of tulle starting below the hips, creating a delicately ruffled look. The ice princess motif was perfectly captured in this garment: the beading conjured up images of icicles, the white color instantly transported viewers to a snowy landscape, and the tulle ruffles danced in the air like snowflakes. Another standout was an ivory-toned, lace and chiffon gown (shown last above), this time boasting a high neckline, long and fitted sleeves with puffing along the shoulders, a pearl-encrusted bodice, and a floor-length skirt made with layers of chiffon. 

But make no mistake: there was no shortage of color among the more extravagant garments. While some looks were created in snowy white, blush rose, and cream shades, many were vibrant and bold, many in shades of sapphire blue, ruby red, burgundy, and carmine red. A lovely sapphire blue gown (pictured above at top) toyed with a juxtaposition of aristocratic and floral elements, its bodice resembling a blouson and embellished with a fine black lace that draped over the shoulders and chest like a capelet, and its chiffon skirt flaring out near the bottom and showcasing inset black lace panels. Similarly, a carmine red cocktail dress (shown above, second from top) dazzled with its delicate lace long sleeves and beaded lace bodice, not to mention its playful circle skirt, made with layers of tulle. And, for those searching for a red carpet-worthy number, Shoji showcased a stunning long-sleeved black tulle gown with duchess grey sequins placed all over the garment in shapes resembling florals, their silver sheen intensifying the glamorous yet icy feel of the collection

Perhaps the less successful garments were those that approached Russian folkloric dress too literally, as with a high-neck, black chiffon frock with billowing long sleeves cuffed at the wrists and a semi-sheer, mid-caf-length skirt, all adorned with black-and-carmine re-embroidered lace ribbon strips, one wrapped around the neck, two vertical bands placed side by side along the center of the bodice, one trimming the skirt’s hemline, and others decorating the sleeve cuffs (as shown next to last below).

Thankfully, these missteps were rare in an otherwise grand collection that incorporated everything from floor-sweeping gowns to drop-waist trapeze dresses,tuxedo gowns and capelets in lace, paisley print gazar, organza, chiffon, tulle, velvet and even neoprene, adorned with pearls, icy beads,sequins, and precious gems that dazzle like the gems on Catherine the Great’s famous crown.

Check out images of the collection above and below!

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