Designer Diaries – Augusta Lundin and the Swedish Court

Who is this? Well, to start with, she was a feminist and progressive employer, as well as the “Mother of Swedish couture”. Augusta Lundin established the first fashion house in Sweden dedicated to what the Swedes described as “French Sewing”, or haute couture. She is the first fashion designer from Sweden who became famous outside of her own country.

She was born in 1840, in Kristianstad. Both her parents were tailors and she established her first fashion house in 1867. Initially she enjoyed modest, local success, but eventually she began a partnership with Otto Gustaf Bobergh, who had long been associated with the world famous designer C.F. Worth, and this allowed her to expand her horizons.

At one time, she had 175 employees, unusual for a businesswoman of the time. Her small salon grew and became the place for the high society ladies of Stockholm. She was a savvy marketer, and early on established herself as a favorite dressmaker for the Swedish royals.

Fast Fact: The House of Worth was established in Paris in 1858 by Charles Frederick Worth and Otto Bobergh. By the the last quarter of the nineteenth century it was an enormous business. In 1871 Worth dissolved his association with Bobergh and relied on his own not inconsiderable talent for self-promotion to market his firm to international fame. Bobergh returned to Stockholm and established his partnership with Lundin.

Augusta Lundin, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Her career spanned an evolution in women’s fashion, and she was dedicated to designing beautiful gowns. Lundin began sewing for royals with the widowed Queen Josephina, and made such an impression on the court King Oscar II gave her designs as gifts to the Ladies-in-Waiting. In 1892, she was appointed the official dressmaker of the Queen, Sophia of Nassau.

Lundin was also somewhat of a revolutionary employer for the time. She allowed shifts to extend to only 12 hours (insane for us, quite a labor improvement for the time) and provided vacation time to her employees. She employed women exclusively for most of her life.

Lundin’s Design Studio, Wikimedia Commons

Below is dress was made for a gala-party to one of the woman in the Swedish court. It was worn at Buckingham Palace in 1905, the night before the wedding between Margaret of Connaught and the Swedish Crown Prince. Lundin also made the dresses for Swedens Queen Victoria, shown second from the left in the group photo below, during this wedding.

Queen Sofia commissioned a dress from Lundin for her fiftieth wedding anniversary, celebrated in 1907. The dress is stored in the Royal Armory, Stockholm. It is constructed from golden beige silk satin decorated with gold gloss embroidery. The bodice is constructed separately from the skirt, and has gloss embroidery and puff sleeves.

Victoria of Baden commissioned the beautiful dress below in 1905.

Below is a gallery of Lundin designs, spanning the duration of her career. She was able to transition from the corseted designs of the 1880s to the “reformed” costume, a looser, less constricted style considered better for women. All through the changing eras, her designs flattered the wearers.

Lundin died in 1919, and left to studio to her nieces and nephews. Without the vision of its founder, the studio itself foundered, and was shuttered in 1939.

Next week we turn our eyes to the Dancing Queen and one of her go-to French designers.