The ladies in waiting of the Russian Imperial Court held almost as splendorous and powerful positions as their imperial mistresses.
From a young age, girls of the nobility and the daughters of government advisors were sent to the Smolny Institue, founded by Catherine the Great, where they would be taught proper graces and ettiquette required of their position; and for the prospect of becoming a companion of sorts to a future Grand Duchess or Empress. The guidelines to the Lady’s fashions and social movements were extremely strict; each had permission to only wear particular colours at court. Oddly enough, the hierarchy of the Mistress’ Household was of German origins. Most ladies in waiting recieved the Order of St. Catherine (consisting of a red sash and miniature of Catherine II). Their positions rarely entailed daily service at Court, and by 1914, they were mostly honorific with attendance only on great occasions.
The Fraülein rank was the most common, in 1881 there were 189 serving the Imperial Family, and in 1914, there were 261. A Fraülein or a Kammer-Fraülein were unmarried young women, who upon their marriage would have to leave court. Being a Fraülein gave the right to the lady to wear white and red at Court events.The highest of the positions, the Hofmeisterin, ruled over all over ladies. They served the Empress and Grand Duchesses personally, and were in charge of introductions to the women invited to Court. Because of their high positions in nobility, these Ladies were entitled to the form of address Your High Excellency.
During the official ceremonies, the ladies-in-waiting had to wear specific Court dresses according to a regulation of 1834 fixing the clothing, the manner and the colors allowed for each one. A Hofmeisterin, Statsdame or Kammer-Fraülein wore a miniature portrait of the Empress on their right shoulder and were called dames à portrait, one of the most prestigious positions at Court. After they left active service, they would wear it on their left shoulder. The Fraülein would only wear the Empress or Grand Duchess’ initials in diamonds, pinned to their left shoulder. [source / source ]