Today, I’m sharing an excerpt of an article written by BS Textile Design student, Hope Porter. Hope spends her work-study hours in the Design Center, researching and cataloging our amazing textile archive. Read on to see what is exciting her these days!
When I first saw this hat on the shelf, I remember my reaction being a mixture of amusement and confusion. It was lying flat on its front and looked akin to a horseshoe crab, and I couldn’t quite figure out how a person was supposed to wear it. It took finally lifting it up to see how gorgeous it was, and my curiosity was immediately piqued.
Here at the Design Center, we have a cataloguing system that tells you a bit of history around each object, as well as the JSTOR collection, but there really wasn’t a lot of information on this hat except that it was Russian, a specific style of kokoshnik, and that it was likely from between 1700 and 1800. A kokoshnik is a headdress specific to Russia, and through my research, I was able to find out quite a bit more about the one we have in our collection.
The first question I had was how to wear it, and I discovered that it’s worn closer to the back of the head, so that the embroidered sections on the flat front form a sort of halo around the face. This specific style is worn tilted slightly forward, and the “horns” that it has tell you that it’s from the central provinces of Russia, where this style of kokoshnik is/was popular, predominantly in and around the Vladimir province.
My second question was if it was actually that old, and the short answer is that yes, it is. I sifted through many major museum collections and found similar objects at locations like the Met, and similar fabric to the brocade used in our kokoshnik at the Cleveland Museum of Art, all dated around the same period. I also found some reference books at the Paul J. Gutman Library which substantiated this, namely Russian Elegance: Country and City Fashion and In the Russian Style, which both included examples of headdresses of the same type, location, and date as ours.