Designer Diaries – Queen Sofia and Valentino Part 1

Queen Sofia and Valentino: a match made in heaven.

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I guess I don’t need to go over Valentino Garavani’s biography since everybody knows who he is, he follows the tradition of haute couture of the twentieth century with fancy fabrics and flashy colours, highlighting feminine silhouettes with high quality work. He tends to conservative designs and that’s perfect for a queen.

Queen Sofia has the most amazing, stunning, varied, jaw dropping and incredible collection of Valentino’s dresses and I hope some of them will be exposed in the soon-to-be Royal Collections Museum of Madrid because they’re masterpieces. But first of all, two side notes: most of them are 80s and 90s outfits, when my country was somehow gentler with the monarchy and social media wasn’t a thing, nowadays Queen Sofia is forced by the special circumstances of Spain to favour national designers as much as she can and it’s been years since the last time she bought a Valentino, although she repeats the old ones sometimes. It’d be impossible for Queen Letizia to collect foreign designer dresses the way her mother-in-law did.  

Secondly, Queen Sofia didn’t travel to Rome, the designer had her measurements and a mannequin where Valentino tried above all fancy evening dresses for state visits and gala events, changing sleeves or the neckline sometimes. But there was also an easier option: the Molinero sisters, famous dressmakers in Madrid that designed the pink attire Queen Sofia wore for her husband’s proclamation, for example. Maria Antonia Molinero was a very good friend of Valentino and she became his first associate in Spain because the designer didn’t have a store here. It was a common practice at that time: local dressmakers bought designs and fabrics to the renowned Valentino and they sewed the dress in their atelier. It’s still a Valentino piece but it doesn’t come from Rome and this allowed Queen Sofia to ask for custom-made changes.

The first connection between Queen Sofia and Valentino is usually ignored: Jean Desses, who was the designer of her wedding dress and most of her gala outfits when she was a young princess in Greece and later in Spain. Valentino was a young trainee in Desses atelier back then. But the very first evidence we have about the Queen’s friendship with the Italian is this Paris Match Magazine cover from 1973, the grey dress with a flower on the neck is a very rare piece since she doesn’t like to show her shoulders.

Note: All photos from on Foro Dinastias, Hola, Paris Match and Vanity Fair and Valentino’s Alta Moda Archive

The white dress with ruffle skirt the Queen wore in Denmark for a state visit gala dinner in 1980 was one of her favourites and she repeated it for years.

And the “Schiaparelli pink” skirt with a silver lame top… I lost count of how many times she’s repeated this one, I think it was her undisputed favourite in 1984. She wore it for the first time to attend a gala dinner with Costantinos Karamanlis, president of Greece, who was trying to provide justifications for not wanting the monarchy back in Greece and the Queen answered: “Don’t worry, you’re talking to the Queen of Spain here, not a Greek princess.”

The blue Valentino with oriental embroidery work she shares with Farah Diba is iconic too and one of the oldest dresses she has from the 70s.

She chose Valentino to visit Queen Elizabeth in 1985, a white dress with a big bow, and again when the British monarchs came to Spain in 1988, the navy blue dress with dots is an iconic piece too.

And Valentino too when Harald and Sonia came in 1995, she repeated this one a lot.

She wore a flashy pink for Pablo and Marie Chantal wedding. We have no information on Queen Noor’s hat, which deserves a post of its own.

Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the more recent Valentino outfits worn by the very stylish Classic Queen. Please join us!