venerdì 21 agosto 2015

Delightful Denmark - Part I: Queen Margrethe's Dresses Exhibition at Frederiksborg Castle

As many of you will undoubtably know, Queen Margrethe of Denmark turned 75 on 16 April this year, and as part of the birthday celebration a comprehensive exhibition of dresses and accessories worn by the Queen throughout her life and reign has been put together at Frederiksborg Castle near Copenhagen.

The castle, dubbed "the Nordic Versailles", is an impressive Renaissance masterpiece, built by King Christian IV in the early 17th century on a series of small islands at the centre of a natural lake, and comes complete with its own large formal garden in the Baroque style. Nowadays it's no longer in use by the Danish Royal Family and houses the Danish Museum of National History instead. As you can imagine, the interiors are pretty breathtaking:
The Chapel Royal.

A Zodiac-themed ceiling in one of the rooms.

 A room in the State Apartments.

But of course, one of the main reasons for which I'd made the trip to Denmark was to see the Queen's dresses, and here they are in their full glory in the magnificently embellished Great Hall:


 A detail of the lavilshly decorated ceiling.
The exhibition, titled "HM Margrethe II of Denmark - 1940-2015 - A Costume Cavalcade", was officially opened by the Queen herself just ahead of her birthday, on 25 March 2015:
Touring the exhibition with musuem director Mette Skougaard.
The focal point of the exhibition is, without doubt, the stately white silk wedding gown the Queen wore on 10 June 1967, when still Hereditary Princess of Denmark, to be married in Copenhagen's Holmens Kirke to French Count Henri de Laborde de Monpezat:

The wedding dress is by Jørgen Bender, a favorite of her mother Queen Ingrid and a staple royal couturier who had designed Margrethe's younger sister Anne-Marie's dress for her own wedding to King Constantine of the Hellenes three years earlier.

The dress features a square neckline, long sleeves, a flared skirt and a six-metre train. While nowadays it appears to be very simple and unembellished, originally it was trimmed with a large piece of lace (visible in the photo above) that had belonged to her maternal grand-mother, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden (a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria), and has since been removed to be used by subsequent royal brides on their wedding dresses. A replica of the wedding bouquet was also on display:

Another faboulous, wedding-related gown on show is the floral-print silk faille dress by Mogens Eriksen the Queen wore to the Crown Prince's nuptials on 14 May 2004. As far as mother-of-the-groom's dresses go, this was pretty fabulous! Bright pink and yellow blooms, three-quarter sleeves with oversized bows, a name it! Oh, and some rather sparkly accessories to go with it all, too!
For the wedding service at Vor Frue Kirke in Copenhagen, the Queen covered up with a flamboyant geranium-hued silk twill full lenght coat, trimmed with silk satin leaves, which has since been remodeled into a gala dress, also featured in the exhibition, by designer Birgitte Thaulow in 2010, as part of the Queen's 70th birthday wardrobe:

Note the matching handbag!

A detail of the silk satin leaves appliquéd at the hem.

The central seam where the coat was remodeled can clearly be seen in the photo above. Also, the sleeves have been shortened from wrist-lenght to elbow-lenght. The Queen has had a number of portaits taken wearing the remodeled dress, most notably the one shown below, which hangs at Frederiksborg Castle, showing her with her two direct heirs, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Christian. It's titled "Three Generations" and it was painted by Niels Strøbek in 2012:

Other dresses on display include a splendid golden silk damask dress with matching jacket trimmed with mink fur, another Jørgen Bender creation, made in 1973 for Margrethe's first official visit as Queen (she had acceded the throne in 1972) to neighbouring Sweden:
Margrethe, in mourning dress for the Death of her father King Frederik IX, being proclaimed Queen by Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace on 15 January 1972.

The dress photographed for the exhibition catalogue. Its actual colour is closer to the golden yellow of this picture, than to the paler lemon hue of my own photographs above.
As with the geranium Birgitte Thaulow above, the Queen has had her portrait taken wearing this dress:
A dress from the time of Margrethe's engagement, presumbaly made by Magasin, the famous Copenhagen department store, in 1966. The white fabric is the same zibeline silk (a heavy silk fabric with a twill weave) used to make Margrethe's wedding dress, while the green and gold silk fabric is an original Japanese obi fabric purchased by the Princess in Kyoto during an official visit to Japan in 1963:
A stunning, typically 1960s dress by Balmain, in silk twill embroidered with pearls, sequins and featuring a broderie anglaise detail at the neckline, waist and hem. This was made in 1967 by stylist Eric Mortensen, who was working for the French house of Balmain at the time



The exquisite historic christening gown that has been passed down the generations in the Danish Royal Family since 1870 was also displayed. Made for the christening of the future King Christian X in silk and Brussels lace, it was used at Margrethe's own christening on 14 May 1940 in Holmens Kirke, Copenhagen:

A display case was dedicated to garments and accessories worn or used by Margrethe as a baby girl in the early 1940s, including a red bicycle, a toy pram and a (nowadays politically incorrect) squirrel fur coat with a Peter Pan collar and self-covered buttons, made around 1942 for the Princess by renowned Copenhagen furrier Birger Christensen:

A national costume of Greenland, complete with leather over-the-knee boots and handbag, made for the Princess in 1952, was also dipslayed, alongside a photo of the Royal Family in traditional Greenland clothing and an original set of Native American children's clothing, made of leather and embroidered with glass beads. The latter dates back to around 1900 and was acquired by Queen Ingrid, Margrethe's mother, whose grand-father, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, served as Governor General of Canada in the early 1910s:

A red leather monogrammed hatbox and hat from the 1950s:
Further traditional clothing dating to more recent times was also shown, among them a Greenlandic blue cashmere jacket with glass bead embroidery and a folk costume from the island of Rømø in the Wadden Sea, which was gifted to Queen Margrethe by the National Folk Dance Association of Denmark in 1996:
Incidentally, by looking at the dresses, you really get a feel for how tall the Queen is. Apparently, she stands at a rather impressive 182 cm (5ft 11), taller than Crown Princess Mary, who is 170 cm (5ft 6), and even Crown Prince Frederik, who stops at 180 cm (5ft 10). 

Some of the dresses really are trademark Margrethe, and couldn't possibly be worn by anyone else without verging on the eccentric! I'm thinking mainly of the ensamble below, in a rainbow

Plenty of eveningwear to drool over, too! There was this opulent burgundy silk velvet gown trimmed with satin leaves accented with glass beads, made by the atelier of Jørgen Bender in 1997, to be worn to a banquet a Christiansborg Castle to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Queen's accession (shown directly below):

This dress was also worn to a State banquet at Windsor Castle on 16 February 2000, as seen below:

Then there was this tomato red silk velvet and silk taffeta evening gown with a streamlined silhouette, which the Queen commissioned, once again from the atelier of Jørgen Bender, in 1990 to wear to her 50th birthday party:
It was worn a number of times during the Nineties, including at a State banquet at the White House on 20 February 1991, when the Queen and Prince Henrik were guests of President and Mrs Bush:
For her 60th birthday in 2000, the Queen commissioned from Verner Enquist this silk taffeta short-sleeved gown with a bodice intricately embroidered with sequins and glass beads in spiral shapes:
This rather extravagant lavender tulle gown with silver thread embroidery was made in 1992 by the atelier of Jørgen Bender. The skirt is made up of three asymmetrical layers and the whole gown required approximately 60 m of silk tulle:
It's a style the Queen seems to be fond of, as there was another very similar gown on display. Made for the Queen's 60th birthday celebrations like the silk taffeta with beaded bodice shown above, this gown by Uffe Frank is made of midnight blue silk satin overlaid with tulle with an abstract embroidery in silver thread:

Another "very Margrethe" dress in style, this multicoloured silk chiffon and metallic thread column evening dress was made in 1990 by the atelier of Jørgen Bender to be worn to a party at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen during the Queen's 50th birthday celebrations:
This peach silk gown with almost origami-like sleeves was made in 1994, to be worn to Prince Henrik's 60th birthday party.

Its most prominent repeat wear came probably in 1998, when Queen Margrethe wore it to a banquet at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo during an official visit to Japan:
Stay tuned for a post on Crown Princess Mary's dresses currently on display in Odense! Coping up in a few days, as soon as I've caught up a bit with my real life job :)
Practical info: "HM Margrethe II of Denmark - 1940-2015 - A Costume Cavalcade" runs at Frederiksborg Castle until 30 August 2015. The Castle is open every day, 10am to 5pm. Frederiksborg Castle is located in the town of Hillerød, north of Copenhagen, and is easily reached from the capital taking an S-train, line A. The journey lasts about 40 minutes.
Entrance to the Castle, which includes entrance to the exhibition, is 75 DKK (10 €/11 $).
A catalougue is available, in Danish only (duh!), for 98 DKK (13 €/14 $) from the Museum Shop.

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