Dressing Up Like A Romanov for Basic Magazine’s Spectacle Issue Release Party

The evening is dark, and the streets are almost empty. I make my way past the doorman guarding the deep, burgundy doors of Raspoutine—a Russian-inspired nightclub in West Hollywood. (Don’t be fooled by the name, this is a French import with a few other locations across the globe, including Paris, Rome and Marrakesh). Once inside, I’m instantly doused in red. Red lights, red walls, red tufted velvet sofas. There are ornate, whimsical chandeliers and oversized matryoshka dolls standing there in various corners, smiling politely like wallflowers at a boisterous gathering. Upstairs, there’s vodka, of course.

I climb the stairs to the second floor, and walk over to the railing overlooking the dance floor. This is a good vantage point for people-watching—or more precisely, outfit watching. (I am who I am, OK? And this is a costume party, after all.) I observe the guests entering the space, the flow growing from a trickle to a torrent as the evening inches into night. Many of them don bedazzled, out-there looks, and many opt for more body-bearing, sexy ensembles, which can sometimes mean the same thing. There’s a guest in a strapless jacquard grown with an infinitely long train, and others in faux fur, sequins and some serious nails I notice from all the way up here. 

Normally, you really don’t have to dress up to party it up in here. But things are a little bit different tonight. Tonight, we’re celebrating the release of Basic Magazine’s—a fashion publication based out of Los Angeles—Spectacle Issue. The dress code is fittingly inspired by the Romanov Dynasty, and the guests, I have to add, are decked out in their finest. 

As for my outfit, I started planning early. In fact, I didn’t even know I was planning when I started planning for this. When thrift-shopping a few months ago, I came across a velvet dress. It was the kind of red that doesn’t come by easily—a deep, pomegranate red. I’m not sure if it was the color or the intricate button details, but even at the time, the whole outfit felt like a sartorial excursion through Russia, circa 1910. I bought it, of course, and mentally filed it in my closet under “red,” “kinda royal-looking,” and “missing a button and needs some work.” 

When I received an invite to shindig thrown by Basic Magazine, I pulled the red dress out, dusted it and carried it over to my mom, who was staying with me for the week at the time. (Really, this woman made my prom dress from scratch. There’s nothing she can’t cut, stitch or ornament with needlework). The dress was an easy decision. The bling? Not so much. 

Ever since I was a tot, I’ve been fascinated by the Romanovs. (I blame the 1997 animated film, Anastasia, which I watched on repeat, and as of late, The Last Czars, which renewed my interest in the matter). Aesthetically speaking, I’m drawn to the extravagant taste of Imperial Russia—the elaborate clothes, the dazzling, opulent palaces, and oh, the jewels.

There’s something so alluring about the Russian Imperial jewelry collection. It’s been almost a century since the Bolsheviks assassinated the Romanov family, and still, the complete story of the Russian Crown Jewels is somewhat murky. Some were sold, some locked up in state vaults, some lost. (If you are interested in flipping through the Fersman’s Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones, a Bolshevik-era catalog of royal jewels, you’ll be happy to know it’s available to the public here). 

When I was doing my research, I came across this 1920’s diamond and ruby cluster ring, and was immediately inspired. I knew I wanted a tiara or a headband of sorts that married golds and reds—something that looked more, erm, extravagant than what its price tag suggested. After a little bit of digging, I found this baroque headband on Amazon, which to me, looked Romanov-y enough. Thanks to Prime, the piece arrived within two days—and folks, it was beautiful. (I must admit, I was a bit skeptical even after I hit the check-out button). 

All to say, standing here, I’m happy with the way I managed to pull my look together in just a few days. I’m also quite pleased with the event itself. In the midst of deadlines and freelance assignments, the evening offered a chance to use our fantasies, or you know, just lazily sway into the wee hours, all of which helped bid dasvidaniya to the week with some much-needed energy. 

Outfit deets

“As I mentioned in the post, the dress here is vintage. If you are interested in purchasing it, contact me, and we’ll work it out! Otherwise, I pulled together a couple of Romanov-inspired, velvety options.”

Headband/Tiara: Amazon 

Dress options: