When a new exhibition on Queen Margrethe’s gowns and hats opened several weeks ago in Aarhus, there was a collective sigh of disappointment from many readers who are unable to attend. Inger Stokkink is a Dutch freelance journalist living in Denmark. She divides her attention between politics, sailing and royalty – and hats. She recently took in the exhibition and generously shares her reflections with us in two parts, today and tomorrow. I’m thrilled to feature Inger here at Royal Hats.
Royal Hats of Queen Margrethe of Denmark
by Inger Stokkink
Forty-two hats, no less. The recently opened exhibition of Queen Margrethe’s gowns at Den Gamle By Museum in the Danish city of Aarhus follows an international trend where museums and royal families co-operate to share highlights of royal wardrobes with the greater public. But this exhibition is special because it comprises a sub-exhibition of royal hats.
Queen Margrethe opening the fashion exhibition on March 27
When curator Tove Engelhardt Mathiassen prepared the exhibition with the Danish court, she received the offer to include forty-two hats the Queen acquired in the sixties and seventies – an offer Tove immediately accepted.
Most of the hats come from Vagn Hattesalon, a well-known and well-reputed hat shop in Copenhagen, active from 1910 til 1980. See here for a range of Vagn designs from the fifties and sixties.
”The hats we have on loan from the queen are from the seventies up to the early eighties, when Vagn Hattesalon closed,” says Tove Mathiassen. ”It is remarkable how different the hats from Vagn are in form, colour and decoration. Some are very simple, with just a hat band or a single feather. Others are true little works of art, with flowers, feathers and veils.”
Black straw hat with flower trim worn by Queen Margrethe on May 2, 1974 during a trip to London
CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH
Queen Margrethe has an active role in the design of her clothes, and the same goes for her hats. Frequently, she has sent the same material used to make a dress or other garment to her hat maker with the suggestion to use it also in the hat design.
The exhibition shows at least one hat with a history like this, a hat which also features in the book ‘Dronningens Kjoler’ (The Queen’s Dresses) by Katia Johansen. It is in blue silk with a printed golden yellow pattern. The material was a gift from the Queen’s husband, Prince Henrik, who brought it home to her from his travels to Iran 1975 or 1976. The Queen had a blouse made of out it and a turban hat, together with a suit in warm yellow. Later, the hat was re-made into its actual form: low-domed crown with a shawl-like garnishing around it and a blue straw, slightly upturned brim. She wore this ensemble twice in 1979 on state visits – a Danish state visit to China and a British state visit to Denmark.
Curator Tove Engelhardt Mathiassen and her assistant highlighting this blue hat with impeccable crown stitching and ruched hatband (its original turban form still visible!)
Queen Margrethe with Queen Elizabeth during the May 1979 British state visit to Denmark
MUCH MORE FUN TO LOOK UGLY
Later still, the blouse’s Persian silk ended as part of the antependium, altar cloth, of the bishopric of Haderslev in Southern Denmark. Many of the Queens’ clothes and accessories ended their lives either as religious garments for Danish clerics or theatre dresses for the pupils of dancing school Fru H’s Danseinstitut led by the Queen’s friend Susanne Heering. This fits very well for the Queen as one of her main hobbies is designing costumes for the stage. For a while, designing clerical garb was her hobby, too.
It is interesting to note that the Queen has said that early on in life, she discovered that she found it much more fun to dress up in a way that is NOT pretty or sweet, but rather the opposite. Theatre design gave her a much better outlet for that than her own ’working’ clothes (and hats). Although the Queen’s boundary-breaking, Pippi Longstocking-kind-of-approach to fashion never is far away.
Inger- this approach to fashion by Queen Margrethe now explains several of her unusual (and sometimes bizarre) hats! Stay tuned tomorrow, dearest readers, for the second part of this fantastic exhibition review and look back at Queen Margrethe’s hats. My sincere thanks, again, to Inger Stokkink.
Photos from Miguel Mielgo and Inger Stokkink may not be replicated in any way without written permission.