173. Things important (fashions) and not (pretty much everything else)
Moscow. Somewhere between 1802 and 1804.
“You can’t create a demand. But you can create necessity for a demand”
O’Henry ‘Cabbages and Kings’
“The perfect accessory can make the difference between looking blah and totally to die for.”
“Accessories are everything. To me, they're more important than the clothes.”
“He is a true Hapsburg: he can spend a week discussing color of the collars for a jagger battalion”
Fashions and Josephine as a factor of Russian economy
The “classic” style introduced by Josephine and her friends during the Directory time was spreading through most of Europe but even with some reasonable changes  it had one big problem: these dresses were very light and Paris, not to mention, London, Vienna, Moscow, etc., had climate noticeably colder than Ancient Greece. Doctors begged to ban this fashion, inviting the ladies to go to the Père Lachaise cemetery and see how many pretty women died because of her from a cold. Needless to say that neither proposals to ban the fashion nor invitations to visit the cemetery produced any visible result. The solution had to come from the fashion’s Olympus and it was Josephine who proved herself to be up to the task of saving unknown numbers of lives and, to a great surprise of everybody starting from her husband, to benefit the Russian economics.
In one of his diplomatic dispatches to Paris citizen (“call me just ‘marquis’”) de Caulaincourt mentioned that at one of the court events Mme Bonaparte had a shawl of an unsurpassed beauty skillfully draped over her shoulders and that the next day on a private ball many Russian aristocratic ladies had been parading similar accessories, all made in Russia out of some seemingly weightless but very warm material. To his inquiry Mme. Bonaparte answered that these shawls had been there “forever”, it just that they were not deemed proper for the society occasions and now
This jewel of information had been (as expected) communicated to the consuls’ womenfolk and from them spread around Paris as a wild fire. The first practical action came from Bernadotte’s extended family: the consul who never was afraid of any enemy could not withstand for long a concerted assault by 5 dedicated females (Desire, Julie, Pauline, Caroline and Elisa, fortunately Lucien with his wife were in Madrid) and the courier had been sent to Moscow with a letter requesting the French ambassador to acquire and send to Paris, ASAP, 7 (2 more for for the wives of other consuls) of these, now mandatory, accessories. After the first demonstration in Paris, it was just a question of how exactly to get these shawls to France and then elsewhere.
Necessary explanation. The whole thing was a byproduct of two factors: (a) cold winters in Orenburg area and (b) a lot of women who had plenty of a free time. Not to forget, there was also a fundamental linguistic confusion involved.
The winters in Orenburg are really harsh and the local breed of the goats got used to them by growing extremely thin down which is the thinnest in the world - 16-18 micrometers, while that of Angora goats (mohair) is 22-24 micrometers . Despite being so fine, the fiber is very durable, more so than wool.
According to one of the legends, the first Russian settlers who arrived in the Urals were surprised by the light vestments of Kalmyk and Kazakh horsemen galloping through the endless steppes of the former Kyrgyz-Kaisak Horde. The secret of confronting the fierce Ural frosts turned out to be unusual: they used scarves woven from goat’s down as a lining for their light clothes. The scarves were sewn without any patterns, performing only a utilitarian function: to keep warm to your owner. These native people had been routinely busy with tending for their herds and agriculture while the settlers were Cossacks (initially) fully occupied with a border service and as a result their wives had a considerable amount of a free time and also brought a traditional culture of knitting and making laces. In an addition, unlike the common Russian peasant women (who usually were too busy trying to survive), the Cossack women had a tradition to get dressed nicely. So their husbands started buying the goat down from the “natives” and the wives started with making the shawls.
Now, the shawls were strictly utilitarian made for warmth, rather thick and lacking any patterns. But soon enough the whole thing became more sophisticated. the first man who paid serious attention to the unique qualities of goat down hair was a Russian historian of Orenburg area Peter Rychkov. In 1766 he proposed to organize this knitting craft as a business. As an example illustrating his ideas he used a shawl made by his wife. There are 3 types of the product which in Russia was called «Оренбургский пуховый платок»:
- Simple down wrap (shawl) - gray (rarely white) thick warm down scarves. It was with the manufacture of shawls that the Orenburg down knitted fishing began. The warmest type of «платок» used for everyday wear.
- A spider web or gossamer is an openwork product made of goat down of thin spinning and silk. Not used for everyday wear. It is used in solemn, festive occasions, as knitting schemes and techniques are much more complicated than a simple down scarf. Cleaner and softer wool is usually used, which increases the cost of the product.
- Stole or palantin is a thin scarf/cape, similar in knitting and use to a gossamer.
A gossamer and a stole are as thin as a web. Thin cobwebs usually have a complex pattern and are used as decoration. The subtlety of the product is often determined by 2 parameters: whether the product passes through the wedding ring and whether it can be placed in a goose egg. A good craftswoman can tie two medium-sized gossamers or three stoles in a month. It takes a month or more to make a large handkerchief or a handkerchief with a pattern or inscription. Each handkerchief is an original work of art, in which a lot of creative work and patience of downworkers are invested.
Naturally, they are coming in various shades of white and grey (the best would be either pure white or very dark grey) or they could be dyed in a variety of colors.
Depending upon size, down quality and sophistication of a pattern the gossamers and stoles could be reasonably affordable (tens rubles) and all the way to hugely expensive (thousands or even tens of thousands). A “normal” size of an ordinary gossamer was 5 by 5 feet but they were much smaller and considerably bigger items.
[In OTL the international rage started in mid-XIX with “Imitation a la Orenburg” organized by an English firm “Lipner” and France and Britain importing tens thousands poods of the down annually.]
Of course, advantages of having something warm had been obvious for the Russian climate but so far all versions of Orenburg products had been worn privately with a resulting high level of the cold and pneumonia (with a corresponding mortality rate) after the court and simply aristocratic balls: an architectural style involving the enfilades was nice and good for Italy but even in France, not to mention much colder Russia, it resulted in drafts which no heating installations could fully remove.
Josephine was not aware of all these circumstances but present occupation of her husband involved extensive dealing with all types of the army contractors and in the Russian Empire it was more or less assumed by default that a signed contract warrants some gratitude. Now, it was out of question to offer general Bonapartov a vulgar bribe and, him not being fond of the hunting, a favorite occupation of the Russian nobility, presenting him with the pure breed hounds was probably not a good idea either. But a nice present to his wife was a completely different story.
A visit from a merchant, even a completely respectable one, could be slightly unusual for the Russian high society but Josephine was French and the things had been quite different under Directory where the main criteria of a social acceptance was wealth. So he was admitted and, after expressing all needed admiration, presented “Matushka, Your Excellency” with a silver goose egg. When the souvenir was opened, inside was something white, light and fluffy which proved to be a huge gossamer 9 by 9 feet, which was pulled through a small ring. Being who she was, Josephine did not hesitate to make this present into a socially-acceptable accessory.
Now, the cashmere shawls from India already started appearing in Britain and some of them had been brought to France from Egypt by a returnin army. Shawl brought from India (shown below) was fabulously expensive!
And this high cost is quite understandable: three weavers worked on an ordinary shawl for several months, and the complex one, with an intricate pattern, was weaved from one and a half to four years. However, none of them were comparable in the terms of warmth and light weight: Orenburg gossamer 5 by 5 feet weighted approximately 200 grams or even less.
With the floodgate open, not a single type of a shawl could monopolize the market but the the shawls from Orenburg got a considerable part of it with a resulting growth of a weavers’ number from few hundreds to over ten thousands. The shawls were still made at home by the individual weavers but soon enough there were few entrepreneurs basing their production on that model. Making hobby into a business of course meant bigger income for the involved cossack families but it also meant much more work than the Cossack women had been used to. Eventually, profession spread to the non-cossack Russian settlers of the region and later outside the region: the goat down was easy to transport and the knitting skills could be learned. However, the original product name was preserved, especially for the exports.
Export of the Orenburg down was strictly prohibited not to impede the domestic production and its export.
Emperor Paul, with all his indifference to the outside world’s opinions, was actually pleased by the fact that the Russian Empire became one of the European fashion centers and a major producer and exporter of the high-end fashion items. Plus, domestic production of such items meant that the Russian nobility will not be spending money abroad buying them in Paris or London. Mme Bonaparte was made lady-in-waiting of the Imperial Russian Court and awarded Order of St. Catherine , which was the highest honor available to a women in the Russian Empire.
Besides Orenburg, few manufactures had been founded to produce the shawls closer in their appearance to the Indian style. Special methods of processing the down of Tibetan goats, vigones and saigas were developed - a skein of yarn weighing 13 grams consisted of a thread 4.5 kilometers long. Each shawl that had dozens of shades (!), two craftswomen weaved from one and a half to two years, and it cost a fortune - up to 32 thousand rubles.
For the broader classes of domestic consumers shawls, which were called "Kupavinsky," were made at the Kupavinskaya factory of Prince N. B. Yusupov, they were worn by merchants. The cost of one such shawl was 200 rubles (this amount was earned by a factory worker for the year). Even cheaper shawls had been produced elsewhere with the most popular being made in Pavlov Posad. They were bought by not too rich people and exported into the CA.
More fashions - the war lost
While Josephine wad busy with the things truly important, her husband also was, besides whatever else his was doing, also was involved in all-important fashion business by actively participating in redesign of the army uniforms. Of course, this area could not be neglected because the militaries were, by definition, darlings of any patriotic woman and must
look dashing. Even in the army of the Republic, at least in theory, the officers’ and generals’ uniforms had been cute, with all these scarves tied in the enormous bows, gold braid, plumes and what not. Surely, the Russian imperial army has to be at least on the same level. Unfortunately, unlike his wife, general Bonaparte was not up to the task and had been steadily loosing this war. He was a military genius but as far as the clothes were concerned he had a taste of an over-excited magpie and a notion that the uniforms has to be a part of a “moral stimulus” for the military even at expense of their practicality.
He was winning skirmishes here and there but most of his sophisticated maneuvers had been defeated by the primitive: “too expensive”, “not practical for the Russian
soldier” and “the greatest stimulus is soldiers’s cross of St. George”.
The gold bride had been cut almost to zero even for the top ranking generals, no waistcoats, boots instead of the shoes (“did you see the roads in Russia and Poland?”) and “chaussette russe”  instead of the stockings (“Suvorov himself had been wearing them”). Tricornes for the soldiers and junior officers had been gone but an idea of the huge bearskin hats for the grenadiers was killed and the same happened to the gaiters .
The only tactical victory were the hussars uniforms: everybody agreed that they have
to be fancy. But this victory was followed by a strategic defeat in the area of saddling. It was pointed out, with a very good reasons that the French don’t know how to take care of their horses and that a proposed idea, while looking nice, will result in the damaged horse backs after few days of a march  while one of the Oirat regiments recently arrived to Moscow making few thousands miles of a fast march without losing a single horse. The same argument buried Murat’s expectations regarding high-level cavalry appointment: he was clearly not up to the task beyond the dashing cavalry charges. After a prolonged bargaining he had been made chief
of a hussar brigade, aka, a person mostly absent from his position outside a battlefield with the routine duties being responsibility of a brigade commander
. On a positive side, it gave him a right to wear a dashing hussar uniform so there was no reason for him to be unhappy.
A wise general knows when to retreat and the Russian army ended up being dressed mostly in dull green…
Things not too important - Peaceful Europe and other trifles
Europe was quiet for a change.
- The Brits and French did not, yet, figure out what they can start fighting for again and, anyway, explicitly restrained foreign policy of the Consulate was not providing any serious reason for the British public opinion to get into the anti-French frenzy again. But, OTOH, a free trade system was not too beneficial for France because in general the British manufactured goods had been better and cheaper and the French had advantage mostly in the wines and luxury goods. Well, France still had certain logistical advantage in trade with the inland German states across the Rhine. The least damaging solution was to try “non-confrontational” colonial expansion in the areas which the Brits did not penetrate, yet, for example, Indo-China and some parts of Africa. This would also take care about the army, which was still too big for a time of peace. Expeditions had been sent to the potentially promising area to collect information needed for making decisions. In the case of the war over Poland, the Consulate did not have either means or reasons to join on the Austrian-Prussian side and no reason to do so on the BL side. If anything, the Russian diplomacy was persuading the Consuls to remain strictly neutral to avoid expansion of what otherwise will be a regional conflict.
- The Dutch VOC finally got bankrupt and its possessions and business had been taken over by the Batavian Republic. There was some British pressure to make their possessions on Java more open to the foreigners but so far this issue did not escalate into a significant conflict.
- By the Treaty of Amiens Spain ceded the island of Trinidadto Britain but recovered Menorca so everything was fine but general Miranda, after being rebuked by the Brits, travelled to New York, where he rekindled his acquaintance with William S. Smith to organize an expedition to liberate Venezuela and, with the US government not being interested in his plans, started raising the funds and volunteers for a private expedition with a purpose to liberate Venezuela. Well, if this is going to be a problem, it will be taken care of in a due time. As of now, Spain was going to enjoy peace.
- In Sweden Gustav III was mostly interested in opera and masquerades but under pressure from Moscow and his own military was forced to agree to strengthening his army. The strained public finances did not allow a large increase of the regular forces and even though two indelta infantry units were raised in Skåne and the size of the enlisted forces were increased this was not too much so two different systems of reserve recruitment, förstärknings-manskapet and extra roteringen were created. The förstärkningsmanskapet law allowed conscription of up to 50,000 men in the ages 20 to 45 in the case of war. The parishioners would pay those that enlisted voluntary a cash bounty and if willing recruits couldn’t be found to fill the quota, the remainder would be filled by drawing lots among the parish’s farmhands and other men from the poorer strata of society. The extra roteringen allowed, in the case of war, to raise recruits from the nobility lands previously exempt from recruitment.
- The Kingdom of Naples happily returned back to its normal hibernation state. Cardinal Ruffo was removed from his captain-general position, lazzaroni went back to their favorite dolce far niente life style, few former republicans who were not smart enough to leave had been quietly arrested and imprisoned so everything was just fine.
- The only minor German state which was going to matter, Hanover, was not targeted by any side in a potential confrontation so there was no visible reason for Britain to get involved.
- The Ottomans, with the French being removed from Egypt and Septinsular Republic being created as a join Russian-Ottoman vassal, were seemingly quiet except that Ali Pasha of Ioannina started showing a dangerous tendency of getting too independent but so far he was still acting within the acceptable limits and his Albanians proved to be quite useful during the siege of Corfu.
Probably, if the need arises, the Ottomans could be persuaded to do some mischief to Austria if its main armies are being stuck elsewhere. Having some fun on the Adriatics, especially if the Russian squadron is led by “Ushak-Pasha”, will definitely be a popular idea among the Ottoman sailors. Sultan’s loyal Serb subjects could be allowed to conduct looting raids across the border and the custom dues could be raised on the Austrian merchandise shipped down the Danube.
Christian VII, the King of Denmark-Norway and the Grand Duke of Gottorp, was still of a ..er.. “fragile [mental] health” and the country (or rather “countries”) had been ruled by Prince Regent Frederick who instituted widespread liberal reforms with the assistance of Chief Minister Andreas Peter Bernstorff
, including the abolition of serfdom
There was speculation that he was to marry a Prussian princess, a choice supported by his step-grandmother Juliana Maria and her brother-in-law Frederick the Great
. To demonstrate his independence, however, he personally selected his first-cousin Marie Sophie of Hesse-Kassel
, a member of a German family with close marriage links with the royal families of both Denmark and Great Britain. They married in Gottorp
on 31 July 1790 and had eight children. The main point of his foreign policy was strict adherence to the neutrality, which (so far) was fitting perfectly within framework of the Baltic League. So far he maintained the economic position of the Danish merchants and in spite of problems with both France and England. Domestically, he was a supporter of independent farmers and of the great agrarian reforms (the abolition of Adscription
 1788) and other reform laws of the 1790s. During the Anglo-French wars since direct trade was prohibited, the British began to trade through the Danes, who became an ideal intermediary between the two countries: Danish customs officers and merchants had been changing the English stamps on goods on their own and importing them into French ports. Denmark flourished and became rich. The Danish merchant fleet ranked second in the world with 3,344 large merchant ships.
The Danish Navy was quite strong: during the 1780s-1790s it maintained a number of 22-27 ships. Danish warships were perfectly built. They could only be disadvantaged with a draft not exceeding 22 feet (6.7 m), and a fairly weak armament of the main deck on part of the ships. In England at that time, 74-gun ships had a 32-pounder while the Danes had only 24-pounder. Danish small ships were used to protect trade and colonies. If suddenly Denmark could not cope with something or someone, most often Russia came to her rescue. In general, the Russian-Danish Union was supported throughout the XVIII century, except for a couple of small complications happening before Denmark joined the Baltic League. It was beneficial for both Denmark (Russia had a powerful fleet and a powerful army) and Russia (the Danish fleet served as a shield against all those who tried to enter the Baltic). However, relations with Britain somewhat soured after in 1797 Denmark refused to protect its own trade convoys by British warships, including in the Mediterranean Sea and the West Indies. Frederick even ordered the captains of Danish military courts to prevent the British from stopping Danish merchant ships for inspection, which was, strictly speaking, well within a framework agreed upon between Britain and Baltic League but still looked as not too friendly gesture to Britain. Fortunately, before things could escalate the War of the Second Coalition(s) was over and for a while the issue was gone.
The Danish-Norwegian army numbered 36,000 but it was not in a very good shape. There was a serious shortage of weapons, ammunition, clothes, food, and many soldiers had uniforms almost 20 years old. The Danish army had 14,650 on paper
but in a reality could deploy only over 5,000. The army of Norway was under a separate command (Prince Karl August) and in a reality only approximately 8,000 were ready for war and even then most of them had been garrison troops. An army of the Grand Duchy of Gottorp was more or less a token force garrisoning few major cities.
In other words, in the case of a land war Denmark was not going to be a serious factor but it could contribute substantially to blockade of the Prussian ports if Prince Regent decides to stick to the traditional alliance,
which was, after all, purely defensive. But as far as the naval component of such a war was concerned, the Russian and Swedish navies could easily provide such a blockade on the Baltic even without Danish help and, as long as the Ottomans remained friendly, Russian Black Sea fleet could blockade the Austrian ports on the Adriatics using Septinsular Republic as an operational base and probably expecting that Kingdom of Naples is going to be accommodating as well.
But all this will matter later or may not even matter at all and as of now the most important thing was to figure out the proper ways of wearing a shawl.
 Some high-ranking Austro-Hungarian military about one of the Archdukes. As quoted by Count (and later “comrade”) Aleksey Ignatyev.
 Like somewhat “upgrading” a dress so that it does not look as a frivolous nightshirt, not sprinkle it with a water for better clinging to a body, etc.
 The same breed brought to France was loosing their down within couple years.
 A special order awarded only to the females.
 “Онучи” - pieces of fabric for wrapping the legs before putting them in boots.
 According to Zamoiski, an infantryman of Napoleonic army had 3 different fastenings behind a knee. Should not make a walk very comfortable.
 In 1812 losses of the horses in Great Army was terrible and too many of them had backs torn to the meat by an idiotic saddling.