Designer Diaries – Queen Silvia and Jacques Zehnder

Very few women, even royal women, have occasion to wear evening gowns as often as Queen Silvia. The Swedish court not only hosts the Nobel ceremonies, and weddings with full evening dress and tiaras, but up until recently still hosted white tie return banquets for state visits. Silvia has a pan-European outlook when it comes to designers. During the eighties, she turned often to Jorgen Bender, in the nineties to Jacques Zehnder and Nina Ricci, and beginning in 2002, to Yuki.

Today we’ll take a look at Jacques Zehnder’s designs in her wardrobe. I could find nothing about the designer or design house in my internet searching, so we will let the clothes speak for themselves. Speak they do: some of my personal favorite gowns are in this collection.

Official Portrait

This dress, worn for official court photos, is long-sleeved and floor-length, with embellishments around the neck, bodice and sleeves. The full, grand skirt and stand-up portrait collar make for a very royal effect. This is among my very favorite royal gowns. She looks both of this time and not of it, classic, but not fusty or at all outdated. There’s all that detail on the gown and the orders and major jewelry don’t fade away at all. Perfection.

Courtesy Royal Court

Nobel Ceremony 1994

This glamorous evening gown is constructed of of zibeline, which is a special faille-like binding that is no longer available. There is a detachable cascade of black flowers that can be removed for a sleeker effect.

Nobel Ceremony 1999

This full-skirted gown often shows up on favorite lists. The gown features an off-white background with gold accents, cap sleeves, and a fold of fabric detailing to add back interest.

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Nobel Ceremony 2004

In the early aughts, Silvia began to experiment with sleeker silhouettes. This gown lacks the full skirt trademark of Zehnder’s early designs, but makes up for it with the elegant scoop neck and flowing fabric.

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You can see why the Queen turned to Zehnder so frequently for high profile events. He was not wedded to specific design elements, but to the idea that his client should looks both queenly and beautiful.

Next week we continue with the Queen and another of her favorite French designers.