Guest Post: Exhibition on Queen Margrethe’s Hats Part 1

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.

March 27, 2017 | Photo by Miguel Mielgo

Queen Margrethe opening the fashion exhibition on March 27

March 27, 2017 | Photo by Inger Stokkink

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.

March 27, 2017 | Photo by Miguel Mielgo

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.”

March 27, 2017 | Photo by Inger Stokkink

March 27, 2017 | Photo by Inger Stokkink Embed from Getty Images

Black straw hat with flower trim worn by Queen Margrethe on May 2, 1974 during a trip to London 


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.

March 27, 2017 | Photo by Inger Stokkink

Curator Tove Engelhardt Mathiassen and her assistant highlighting this blue hat with impeccable crown stitching and ruched hatband (its original turban form still visible!) 

March 27, 2017 | Photo by Inger Stokkink

Embed from Getty Images

Queen Margrethe with Queen Elizabeth during the May 1979 British state visit to Denmark


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.

March 27, 2017 | Photo by Inger Stokkink


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. 

23 thoughts on “Guest Post: Exhibition on Queen Margrethe’s Hats Part 1

  1. I love the blue and gold hat and outfit – makes me think of a summer day! I’m personally not keen on turning castoffs into alter cloths but it would be OK if unworn cloth from the bolt was used. At my church we had a lady cut down an old red chasuble into stoles for those getting confirmed – I thought that was a good way of upcycling the material.

  2. Thanks so much, Inger, for your insightful post. That’s a great story about the blue and gold hat. Like many of the other posters, I am intrigued by the idea that the Queen’s clothes get upcycled into religious vestments. And that quote is SO telling! She is definitely an original.

  3. Thanks Inger for the brilliant photos and look inside the exhibition. You must have really been behind the scenes to capture photos of the curator handling the hats!

  4. I feel like after reading this I had a big AHA! moment where I now “get” Queen Margrethe’s hats! Of course- she’s an artist at heart and thinks of clothes as another type of canvas to experiment and try new things. I’m going to now go back and look at her hats with fresh eyes. They will probably make more sense if I think about them more like theatre costumes than fashion.

    Queen Maxima usually gets the award for most brave hat wearer but after reading this, I think that title might belong to Queen Margrethe. Thanks so much Inger! I can’t wait for Part 2.

    HatQueen, this blog is always full of interesting surprises. Thank you so much for all the work that must go in behind the scenes.

    • YES! I feel like I “get” Queen Margrethe’s fashion much more now, too! It sounds like she has a lot of input into her hats and clothes and I’m guessing that makes it more authentically “her” than other royals who choose something off a rack or off a designer’s sketch page. She obviously has a very creative and artistic nature and I’m impressed how she has brought that so much into her life. I don’t like a lot of what she wears but now I can appreciate it.

  5. I am fascinated by the idea that some of the Queen’s former garments were passed on to clerics — is any sort of special consecration required to transform a garment from a highly secular fashion use to a religious use? To me, it would seem odd to be performing a service in your church knowing that your altar cloth used to be the Queen’s blouse! (Not trying to be disrespectful — genuinely curious!)

    • I have read this blog for years, I just love all the hats, but am just commenting the first time today! I never would have thought that some of the queen’s clothes are turned into vestments. She seems to go to a lot of church services so maybe she is a religious person herself? I make watercolor quilts and use leftover fabric to make stoles for my son-in-law who is a Lutheran minister. He says they are blessed by the amount of love in them! I don’t think any special consecration is needed but I’ll ask him.

    • Do you think that churches or priests that get vestments from Queen Margrethe’s old clothes KNOW where the fabric comes from???? If I knew I don’t think I could keep my attention on communion. Instead I’d be staring at that fabric!

      • Michael, alternatively, if they DO know, do you suppose that the Queen Margrethe donations are reserved for very special occasions, or just used in an ordinary manner along with all others? I tend to agree with you that if I were there I might tend to focus on the fabric as well!

        • I also was really intrigued by the idea that fabrics from the Queen’s wardrobe eventually turn into clerical items. It reminded me of her personal gift to All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany for their reopening on October 2, 2016 – an alter cloth she designed AND embroidered herself.

          Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

          • Many thanks Inger for this great insight into Margrethe’s artistic side. I knew she painted, but I had forgotten she had done this piece for the Lutheran church, and never knew she designed costumes, or had so much of a say in her clothing choices. The turban-turned-hat is a great piece with a lovely backstory.

    • I always liked Daisy’s kooky style and just love the thought that there’s a whole bunch of her old blouses and dresses still at work in churches around Denmark. You gotta love that! I also love that Henrik came back from a trip with silk for his wife and she made it up into a hat and blouse. He might not have been conventional but he knew and loved his wife well. This post gave me a big smile at the end of a trying day. Thanks Inger and thanks HatQueen!

  6. Thank you, Dear Inger, for this wonderful post! So many times when I read about exhibitions like these I wish I could whisk myself off and see them! Years ago it would not have been possible, but now thanks to you Dear Inger, and our Dear Hat Queen, I’m there! What a marvelous post and lovely pictures!

    The hats are stunning! Seeing Queen M with QEII in their hats and matching shoes and bags makes me wish I had occasions to dress for! I love the idea of reusing the turban hat and adding a straw brim, what a great way to recycle.

    Thank you, thank you again!

    • Yes, this is such an interesting article. I wonder if that blue and yellow silk was a gift from the Shah or Empress of Iran? The years match up.

      I can’t wait for the next post, thank you so much for taking us into this exhibition.

  7. This looks fun – I wish I could make it there. I love her theatrical approach to dressing, it’s definitely not fashion, but like QEII and Beatrix she has found a style that is unique and dare I say, iconic.

    Sidebar – check out those shoes and bag on QEII – lilac if you please! That was quite a departure!

    • I was thinking the same thing about those t-strap lilac shoes and ruffled bag. It’s interesting how some of the more mature Royal Ladies find a shoe and bag and stick to it forever. Queen Elizabeth and Empress Michiko come to mind instantly. As for this wonderful display of a very atrtisic Queen’s wardrobe, I say it looks to be extremely well done and interesting.

      • Yes, some royal ladies of a “certain age” find a hat style and stick to it. Empress Michiko, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Beatrix. I used to put Queen Margrethe in that category too but now I’m not sure. If I went back and looked at all the hats she’s worn in the past 5 years I think I might be surprised with how many different styles and colors there are.

        Thank you very much Inger and HatQueen. I learn something new at this blog every week.

    • Embed from Getty Images
      This must have been a special outfit for Queen Elizabeth. Looks as though she even had 2 different bags made to match.

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