Royal Vintage Exhibit An Inside Look At Swedish Royalty

Stockholm’s Royal Vintage exhibit gives us an inside look at Swedish Royalty.

Most girls dream of someday getting to play dress-up inside the closet of a real-life princess. Perhaps getting to peek into it would be a close second, and that’s exactly what a show at the Royal Armory in Stockholm lets us do. Entitled Royal Vintage, it’s a showcase of dresses worn by the women of the Swedish royal family, from the early 1900s up until today, with a main focus on the 50s and 60s. Over 70 couture pieces are featured in the exhibit, all displayed according to color. Most of them come from the gilded closets of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s mother, Princess Sibylla (who would have been queen had the current king’s father not died in a plane crash in 1947, before the crown was passed on to him), and sister, Princess Margareta, Mrs. Ambler.

The dresses are all hand-made, mostly locally in Stockholm by prominent tailoring schools. One of the most respected ones was the Märtha School, named after sewing enthusiast Princess Märtha. Like most tailoring schools at the time, it included a French department with models often sewn from original Parisian patterns. The school founder, Countess Margareta von Schwerin, considered that French fashion led to more economical consumption as the garment lasted for at least three years.

At this time, slow fashion was the only kind of fashion, accessible merely to the privileged elite. Hooks, buttons and closures were all made by hand, although as the times progress, zippers start making appearances. The curators of the exhibit has made durability and eco-conscious thinking a main focus of the show. It’s hard not to ponder the fact that these dresses all look as good as new even though some of them are going on 100 years old. One factor may be that they probably weren’t worn that many times, but it’s clear that a well-made garment does last.

For those interested in seeing more garments from the wardrobes of Swedish royals, it would be worth your time to check out the rest of the armory. Stand-out garments include garb that two kings wore when they were killed, complete with blood-stains that tell the eerie tale, and even a stuffed horse named Streiff, upon which King Gustavus Adophus rode when he met his demise on a Polish battle field in 1632.

Besides an amazing red coat (very 70s-style, which was right, except it was from the 1870s), and the fact that the people seem to have been very short (yes, it seems Swedes were short once upon a time) a few hundred years ago, what I am most enthralled by is the clothing from the early parts of the 1900s, when King Gustav V brought lawn tennis and the whole romantic, English-influenced style that went along with that to these Northern parts of Europe. King Gustav was quite the sharp dresser — he always wore hats, often vests and driving gloves (a garment for each occasion), had enormous feet and, rumor has it, tended to fancy the gents over the ladies. I got to try on one of his hats (or, more likely, a replica), which is about as close to actually playing dress-up in a royal closet as I got.

Here’s some photos I took from the exhibit:

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Johanna Björk

Johanna is a sustainable fashion writer currently based in Ojai, CA. Read her weekly On Trend column to learn what's new in eco fashion.