Designer Diaries – Queen Silvia and Jørgen Bender

One of the facts that I tend to forget about Queen Silvia was that she went from commoner to Queen in a day. That’s an enormous change for anyone, even someone who was as worldly as Silvia Sommerlath. One of the royals who helped Silvia transition to hew new life was a royal-from-birth, Queen Ingrid of Denmark. Ingrid was a princess of Sweden and a Queen of Denmark, and royaling was second nature to her. Having grown up in it, she also understood the demands of the Swedish court.

One of the helpful tips Ingrid passed on to Silvia was that the designer Jørgen Bender was an artist who could craft a gown with a royal air, and one that would accomodate orders and jewels that some occasions would require. Silvia wore many Bender creations, and she turned to him several times for that most gala of Swedish occasions, the Nobel ceremonies.


Throughout the eighties, the Queen *loved* a good ballgown. For the Finnish state visit, Bender designed a a light claret-coloured faille gown, with a perfect neckline for the Russian pink topaz necklace. The Queen also wore it for the 1983 Nobel ceremonies.


In 1985, Bender designed Silvia a yellow faille ballgown with floral gold embossed appliqués for the Nobel ceremonies. This gown also appeared in one of the Queen’s official portraits that grace Swedish embassies around the world.

Embed from Getty Images


One of my personal favorites is the violet silk taffeta gown Bender designed for the Nobel banquet in 1986. I like how the crystals around the neckline highlight the Queen’s neck and shoulders, and the leaf panels on the skirt add a nice detail. The addition of the amethysts doesn’t hurt, of course.

Photo: Charles Hammerstan/www.kungligaslotten.se


Continuing with his string of ballgowns, in 1987 Bender designed a kelly green silk taffeta with a draped bodice and a full skirt. The Queen wore this for the King’s 40th birthday festivities and for the 1987 Nobel ceremonies, where it was a perfect foil for the emerald necklace.


This blue evening gown, made of silver-embroidered chiffon, was worn over a shell of bright blue Thai silk, and boasted a chiffon train. This Bender gown was a departure for Silvia, as it was the first slim skirt non-ballgown she wore for the Nobel ceremonies. It was also one of the last Bender gowns she was to wear.

Embed from Getty Images

Bender’s designs were integral in helping a new Queen develop a royal presence for many high profile events. It’s fascinating how these designs share some similarities with those of the Danish royals – large skirts, dramatic colors – with a personal touch for Queen Silvia – deeper neckines for jewels and dropped bodices, among other things.

Next week, we travel to Spain, and visit with a couple of other Classic Queens and their favorite designers. A different country with a very different style! Hope you tune in with us.