19th-Century Album of Ottoman Fashion

These watercolour illustrations made in the early nineteenth century are from an album presented to the Russian heir to the throne Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov (1845-1894), who later became Alexander III of Russia. The album seems to have been a gift given in 1867 by someone by the name of Grigoriy Sharopenko and the pictures are most likely copies of earlier illustrations. The drawings show clothes and ceremonial costumes from the Ottoman Empire, with the most noticeable features being the various headdresses as well as the layering of the clothes. The combination of different textiles and manner of layering was a way of distinguishing not only gender but class, religion, and clans, and the aim was to combine the clothes so that each individual layer could still be seen. Actual garments arrived in Europe through merchants, soldiers, and diplomats, and although the most common meeting place between Europeans and the Ottomans was the battlefield, the theatre and opera became a site where these elaborate costumes appeared. The alterations made by Westerners showed not just the features which were most attractive to Europeans but also what was considered particularly "Eastern". This also translated to costumes worn at balls and masquerades, with particularly the turban becoming popular with women in the late eighteenth century and gaining even greater popularity during the early nineteenth century.

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