In 1994, Prince Joachim of Denmark was working for a Danish shipping company in Hong Kong. It was there he met Alexandra Manley, a Hong Kong marketing executive and, by all accounts, and entirely charming woman. After a courtship that was the very definition of whirlwind, the couple announced their engagement in May 1995 with plans to marry in November.
Alexandra was quick study, and she understood it would be excellent PR to turn to the most Danish of the royal Danish designers, Jørgen Bender, for both her pre-wedding ballgown and wedding dress. Fortunately for Alexandra, their tastes and outlook meshed well.
Alexandra debuted her first Bender dress for a pre-wedding gala in November. The designer loved trains and Alexandra loved drama, so the dress had a short, but dramatic train. The designer sketched up three designs, and later said that Alexandra chose his favorite. It was Alexandra who decided it should be red, but I doubt Bender objected. The dress is made from 14 meters of Italian silk, and is embroidered with pearls and rosettes. It also very firmly imprinted an image of the new princess-to-be on the public mind: a dramatic dynamo in a ballgown.
The wedding gown was a ballgown extraordinaire: a tiny, cinched waist, cummerbund and enormous full skirt which opened into a four meter train. The dress was crafted from silk and decorated with nearly 9,000 pearls to create the gown. The pearls decorate the collar, the front pleat of the skirt, the sleeves and the hem.
Bender designed two gowns for Alexandra to be worn to celebrations for Queen Margrethe’s 25th coronation anniversary in 1997. The designer presented the princess with 18 designs, which were eventually winnowed down to the two below. According to Bender, Alexandra considered long and hard over the color choices, referring back to what she already had in her closet. The orange and purple won out. According to Bender, “The fabrics were sourced from Firenze. Both fabric are Ziberine Silk. In the old days you could buy these fabrics here in this country, but you can’t get these fabrics any more.”
Alexandra would continue her princessing days until the couple parted ways in 2005. After her divorce, her style changed considerably. These days she is known as the Countess of Frederiksborg, and still occasionally appears at family events. Bender died in 1999 and the design partnership ended there. However, he can be credited for cementing her early public image as a fantasy princess who was not afraid of the big dress. And since we have only few creations from the collaboration of these two dramatic minds, please feel free to spam the comments with any and all dramatic Alexandra evening gowns.
Next week, we’ll take a look at Bender’s designs for another elegant princess, once who went a bit more streamlined but still made quite an impact.