Make-your-own Kokoshnik, perfect for a wedding headpiece or costume.

This is my take on the Kokoshnik, a design that was initially created for a character in a film, the narrative of which was based on an Estonian folk legend cum fairytale; 'The Magic Maiden'. However, I love the idea of it being used as a wedding headpiece and in particular for an Autumn or Winter celebration, when you can really go to town on the heavily encrusted, bejewelled Byzantine style.

Home-made kokoshnik as a wedding headpiece or costume

Kerry Browne the actress on set and in the dressing room in full costume.

Kokoshnik could be translated as a tiara, diadem or half crown but the etymology of the word is said to have derived from the old Russian kokosh, kokoŇ°, in Serbian, which means chicken. Hmm, I wonder why that would be?

Polish crested Tolbunt hen in our organic forest garden

Above is our beautiful Tolbunt Polish hen Professor Hermann in her forest garden setting.

Historical aspects and design notes

Kokoshnik come in many shapes and sizes and although in the flat mine has very much the traditional half crown look, when worn the shape elongates. I always think there is a certain ambivalence in the nature of the fairy so I wanted an effect of height and elegance but also with just a hint of menace.

I also liked the Northern Russian use of river pearls and I had some I'd recuperated from a beaded cardigan which mimicked these smaller fresh water varieties. I had also seen designs, as here left, where the beads fell down onto the forehead and I added that nuance as well.

There was also a Russian rural and pagan tradition of flower wreaths which I also incorporated into my design

make your own kokoshnik russian wedding headpiece
The Kokoshnik symbolises a wonderful eclectic mixture of so many cultures, being influenced by and having influence upon styles of women's folk dress and court fashions throughout the ages. In Russia it was originally worn by both young girls and married woman but at several times in its history it was either outlawed or confined to festivals. In the early 20th century it was adopted and adapted by Hollywood and thus entered the World of Haute Couture, often as the headpiece of a wedding dress. Witness the pictures of the Tsarina below or 1916 bride Eleanor Lothian Clay (left), as to how well this beautiful style of headdress can be adapted as an elegant support for the dreaded veil.

Above on the left is the Tsarina, Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) in full court dress, wearing a diamond encrusted kokoshnik and right is the brilliant Chinese American actress Anna May Wong in the 1925 silent comedy/drama 'Forty Winks'.

Home-made kokoshnik a refashioning project
Home-made upcycled Russian style costumeHere is Kerry Browne as the Faerie Queen wearing the whole concept in dress rehearsal and looking every inch the reigning monarch of Fairyland. The Kokoshnik gives height and presence and an impressive silhouette when worn with the classic 'A' shaped sarafan, traditional Russian pinafore dress.

As an aside the dress itself was an upcycle of a second  colourway version I made of my own wedding dress, designed in embroidered silk. As you can see I got around my own problem of the veil, anathema to those of us with fine hair and who are not keen on wiglets, toppers and faux buns, by designing and creating a hat in the same figured silk.

Home-made silk wedding dress, hat, veil and wrap

In the next article I will give a step by step account of how I created my kokoshnik from remnants and recuperated 'gems'. In the meanwhile I hope you enjoyed this dip into the history of this fascinating headdress, including (below) this incredible contemporary design in bobbin lace!

If you are interested in our organic forest garden poultry then please take a look at my blog The Holistic Hen (direct picture link in the right-hand column).

All the very best and hope to see you next time,

Thanks to the following Pinterest boards in order of appearance:,,, 

You can find these and more on my Pinterest board: Inspiration for Costume


Home-made wedding tiara from recuperated items

Home-made jewelled tiara, shoe clips, bracelet and wrap

The materials I used were; for the band, a left over scrap of faux fur from a hat I had made. For the crown I used various bits of broken necklaces, beads and buttons recuperated from .. read more

DIY Kokoshnik Tutorial,  Wedding Headpiece or Costume

A step-by-step design and construction of a Kokoshnik plus accessories and ideas refashioning and recuperating more

Home-made Ball gown, Prom dress, Bridal or Party frock for pennies

Not quite pennies but it's very cheap for what you get, a unique piece of wearable Arts and Craft. Even if you had to buy all the fabric new and off the roll, it would still not cost much more than $ more


© 2016 Sue Cross

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