Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Metamorphosis Balls Revisited

March 2020, I wrote about Catherine the Great's “metamorphosis balls” in which the male and female attendees crossdressed under orders from the Russian empress herself. I researched the subject, but only found an article from Vogue magazine, which was sparked by the metamorphosis ball scene in the HBO series Catherine the Great (photo above).

Yesterday, an article came across the mojo wire via Atlas Obscura, “The Weekly Cross-Dressing Balls of 18th-Century Russian Royalty” by Sarah Durn, which goes into much greater detail than the Vogue article. 

The men would be required to wear the stockings, corsets, petticoats (up to five was customary), ruffled lace sleeves, hoop skirts, and elaborate sack back gowns that, on any other occasion, the women of court would’ve worn. The women, on the other hand, had to wear men’s embroidered waistcoats, full-skirted coats, breeches, white silk stockings, shoes with ostentatious buckles, a powdered wig, and an unwieldy sword.

In the metamorphosis balls, in which both men and women dressed as the opposite gender, there are two power shifts going on. First, Cole says, “there’s the power of somebody making you dress outside your gender.” Second, there’s the power play that “by doing it yourself, you are critiquing the power dynamics of gender and gendered dress.” By forcing their male courtiers to dress as women, Elizabeth and Catherine were reminding everyone who was boss. They made the rules. And even men had to follow them.

It is a fascinating read and I recommend it to all Femulate readers.

Source: Madeleine.
Wearing Madeleine.

Femulating Russian nobility in the 2019 Russian television series Ekaterina (Catherine).
You can view the femulation scene from Ekaterina on YouTube.


  1. Another 'everything old'...
    Miss Madeline wears an outfit almost identical in color and knee length to a vintage American made dress I got in a thrift store about 4 years ago.
    This is the outfit that I wore when I outed myself to my wife (and cat!) and I subsequently wrote the story 19 months ago, in the following Femulate article....

    P.S. The health issue is very good as the PSA measurement is 0.0= no cancer!

  2. A Royal Command is probably the best excuse there is for dressing

    1. If the empress ordered me to wear high heels, I'd ask, "How high?"