Swedish royal wedding dress exhibition

The silver throne in the Hall of State

I have written about bridal gowns before, including the wedding dress exhibition I saw at London’s V & A museum a few years ago.

I was not a bride that got all worked up about what I wore, and I would never spend a fortune on something I could wear only once, but I love looking at bridal gowns. Particularly royal ones, because there are so many photographs available.

Last week I went to the Swedish royal wedding dress exhibition at the palace. I had been dying to go for ages but it ends later this month so time was running out.

The exhibition features five royal wedding dresses, bouquets, shoes, veils, and also other dresses related to the weddings such as those of bridesmaids and those worn by brides at parties before and on the big day.

What I really liked was that the dresses were not (unlike the V & A wedding dress exhibition) behind glass, and that you could take photographs. I guess partly because there are lower visitor numbers, and partly because Sweden, as a society, is very accessible and trusting. And I have to say, I didn’t see anyone trying to touch anything. I also appreciated this in the Tutankhamum exhibition – not having glass between you and the exhibits, and also being able to take photographs. Even there I didn’t see anyone with giant flashes going off, or pawing the exhibits.

My favourite wedding dress of all time has always been that of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. It is so simple and suited her to perfection. This is the sole reason I went to the exhibition. This dress is simple elegant perfection and I really wanted to see it close up.  I taught the Crown Princess and I can say that this dress just personifies everything about her. It was designed by Pär Engsheden. Read more about it on one of my favourite blogs, The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor. Many wedding dresses (such as those of Diana, the Princess of Wales and Queen Sylvia of Sweden) were products of their times, but this dress is so classic, it would be considered both modern and timeless in any decade. I don’t think Crown Princess Victoria has ever looked more beautiful than she did on her wedding day.

This one is the 1976 wedding dress of Queen Silvia. She walked up the aisle a commoner and down a queen. I have never been a fan of this one as it reminds me of a nightie and I think Silvia looked shapeless in it, but it is very much a product of its day and the back has interesting features you generally do not see in photographs. In addition, the workmanship is outstanding. After seeing it in real life, I have revised my opinion somewhat, because the details on the back are beautiful, and it reminds me so much of a medieval wedding dress, though it will never be one of my favourites. The dress is by Marc Bohan of Dior. Read more about it here.

You can see several bridesmaids dresses in the background here. The glass cylinder to the one side of Queen Sylvia’s dress holds two very poignant mementoes of this wedding. One is a marzipan rose from the wedding breakfast, kept since 1976 by a member of the royal household, set on a silver stem and presented to Queen on their silver wedding anniversary. The other is a small box containing rice from the wedding found in the wedding landau years afterwards during renovation, and presented to the Queen by the Royal Equerry in celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary.

This one is Princess Madeleine’s dress.  To me it seems unremarkable, and that frill at the bottom of the dress and the edges of the train reminds me of a dust ruffle. I really dislike that frill. Sometimes things look better in real life but sadly, this is not one of them. I would have expected something less chintzy from Madeleine, given her other fashion choices. This dress is by Valentino Garavani and the shoes are by Oscar de la Renta.  Read more about it here

Here is another one I like, Princess Sofia’s wedding dress. It was absolutely beautiful on and her shoes were my favourites of all the shoes on display. The dress is by Ida Sjöstedt and the shoes are by Charlotte Olympia.  Read more about the here.

They had a film about all the weddings featured in the exhibition and the one with the most love in it was this one. The way Carl Philip and Sofia looked at each other was really heartwarming.

And the most heartwarming one I have saved for last. Princess Lilian’s wedding dress.

This is a story of true true love. Lilian Craig was a Welsh commoner, and divorced. Prince Bertil was the uncle of the present king, and the future of the Swedish monarchy more or less rested on his shoulders. Prince Bertil’s two brothers had lost their places in the line of succession because they had married commoners, the King was old, the Crown Prince died in a plane crash, and his son, the young prince (now King) Carl Gustaf was too young to rule. So Prince Bertil had to keep his place in the order of succession so that he could be regent if the old King died before Carl Gustaf came of age.

Lilian and Bertil were together for 32 years before King Carl Gustaf married (a commoner), changed the rules, and allowed Prince Bertil and Lilian to marry, with Prince Bertil keeping his place in the monarchy, and his title.

Imagine all those years where Princess Lilian had to remain invisible. The media and the public showed great respect during this time, accepting their relationship and not reporting on it, but Prince Bertil and Lilian would still have had to hide their relationship in an official sense.

Having now seen both these dresses in real life, I was surprised to note that Princess Lilian’s dress and headwear reminded me a great deal of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall’s marriage finery. Both of these are perfect outfits for mature brides. They are in similar colours and a similar flattering shape for a more mature figure. And very similar headwear as well – the sweeping feathery effect is extremely flattering.  These were both women who had to wait a long time in the background to marry the loves of their lives.  Princess Lilian’s dress is by Elizabeth Wondrak. You can read more about it here, and more about Lilian and Bertil’s relationship here

And Camilla’s dress, and headwear. Both these woman look absolutely radiant. One doesn’t traditionally think of mature brides when you think of bridal wear but both these women knock it out of the park.

Other dresses that were featured were bridesmaid and pageboy dresses, and dresses from the nights before and the nights of the weddings.

Elie Saab dress worn by Crown Princess Victoria the night before her wedding.
To the left, the Elie Saab dress worn by Princess Madeleine the night before her wedding.

Worn the night of the wedding by Princess Sofia. Design by Ida Sjöstedt. This was the only one of the dresses that had a mark on it. I imagine they would all have been cleaned after the big day but that spot towards the hem must have been a stubborn one.
Worn the night of her wedding by Princess Madeleine, this Nina Ricci dress was worn by her mother Queen Sylvia to the Nobel ceremony in 2001. This is more like Madeleine to me – the top is really cool and the bottom is like something from a fairytale!

The exhibition was very interesting in that it had an audio guide which you could also download for later.

I preferred to just be alone with my thoughts so I downloaded it, and could listen, watch and read everything later. It was available in English just by pointing the guide remote at a British flag, though I didn’t do that.

The exhibition is included in the price of a ticket for the royal tour, which includes the Treasury (Crown Jewels), the Tre Kronor museum, and the Royal Apartments.


This is a description of Princess Lilian’s dress. You could also click A or B for interviews with them after the wedding.


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

One thought

  1. Janet, if I could hop on a plane today and run over to Sweden to see this exhibition I would! Absolutely gorgeous!

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