Parties: Tsars in their eyes

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The Independent Culture

One might have been forgiven for thinking there was a dandruff epidemic among guests at the Victoria and Albert Museum on Tuesday night, but in fact the white flakes speckling the immaculate shoulders of Prince Michael of Kent and the Conran clan were the work of an artificial snow machine at the gallery entrance, creating a suitably Muscovite setting for London's latest blockbuster exhibition, The Magnificence of the Tsars.

Sipping potent vodka cocktails, guests (who could be categorised loosely by how distantly they were related to the Queen) pored over the lavish ceremonial menswear of Imperial Russia and remarked on Prince Michael's uncanny resemblance to Tsar Nicholas II as the royal delivered an opening speech on the mutual fascination between Russia and the UK.

Particularly taken with the fine frippery on display was the designer Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, who had caught a sneak preview and confessed to having been "wearing the clothes in my dreams" ever since. Less convinced was the artist Grayson Perry, who found the ornate frock coats just a little... too much, perhaps? "Overdressed is not a word in my vocabulary," he smiled, more resplendent than usual in an oversized Little Bo Peep-style bonnet. "A little pompous maybe."

His reservations, however, were not shared by many of the assembled fur- and velvet-clad company, who seemed conveniently oblivious to the rather ironic juxtaposition of the Cold War Modern show still running in the museum's neighbouring wing. "So terribly sad, the demise of the Romanovs," lamented one impossibly coiffed lady as she disappeared off into the distinctly Soviet-feeling winter night.