Handbag Mystery Hour – Princess Anne-Marie’s Wedding Gown

For years we have confidently said that then-Princess Anne-Marie’s wedding gown was designed by Jørgen Bender. In fact, we have mentioned it several times on this blog, including in the Jørgen Bender Designer Diary, which you can read here.

Imagine our surprise when we came across this New York Times article that indicated Danish designer Holger Blom was the designer! It’s a conundrum for sure. We are laying out the evidence for both options for Baguette and Hofdude review.

The Dress

The gown is relatively simple: it features elbow-length sleeves, an empire waist, a modestly-open neckline, and barely visible lace on the skirt (We can’t find it ourselves, but the photography of the times is working against us.). A detail we hadn’t noticed previously was that there is some gathering of the bodice into the high waistband, which is only visible in a 3/4 view. The looser bodice probably made movement much easier!

Embed from Getty Images

Holger Blom

Holger Blom was a Danish designer who established a popular atelier in Copenhagen in 1929. Queen Ingrid was only one of many well-heeled clients that he served, but she was in the studio often. The staff served her favorite cocktail (Campari, orange juice, and ice) so frequently that they dubbed it the “Queen Ingrid.” When served at the Royal Palace, it was known as the “Holger Blom” (H/T to aneacostumes for this anecdote).

Blom was known for draping and designing clothes directly on the female form. Jørgen Bender was trained in Blom’s studio and would take over the business upon his death in 1965.

If you don’t have a subscription to the New York Times, here’s an excerpt from the article:

Mr. Blom, a tail, white‐haired man, designed Princess AnneMarie’s wedding dress—the details of which are secret. He also designed the dresses of the bridesmaids—Princess Anne of Britain; Princess Tatiana. Radziwill, a cousin of the husband of Princess Stanislas Radziwill, sister of Mrs. John F. Kennedy; Princess Christina of Sweden; Princess Irene of Greece, the sister of the King; Princess Clarissa of Hessen, Germany, and Princess Marguerite of Rumania.

New York Times, September 14, 1963

Wikipedia is less accurate, of course, but they do mention it in his entry. There are several factors in favor of the conclusion that he was the designer:

  • He was one of Queen Ingrid’s favorite designers of that era. In the referenced article, it was said she “hovered above the designer as he worked.”
  • Very detailed sources at the time list him as the designer, including Royal Brides. The NYT article also mentions that toiles were sent to the bridesmaids’ home countries and assembled by their local seamstresses.
  • He owned the studio, and an important commission like this one would likely be run by the boss.

However, the final product was more structured than draped, and it was said that Blom was in ill health during this period. So perhaps the design was turned over to one of his employees?

If you need to see more of Holger Blom’s designs to make up your mind, this Instagram post by aneacostumes is a good resource.

Jørgen Bender

At the 1964 wedding, Jørgen Bender was working in the studio with Blom. As mentioned above, he would eventually own the business himself. Bender would design many, many clothes for the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish royals. His structured, relatively-unadorned style would be instantly recognizable to many royal watchers.

The facts in favor of a Bender design are many:

  • Bender was in the studio at the time the dress was designed. He was young, healthy, and energetic.
  • His subsequent designs for the Danish royals were all very similar to Anne-Marie’s gown.
  • Many sources, both reliable and less so, list him as the designer.

However, most sources listing Bender as the designer were written after the fact. As both Bender and Blom are no longer with us, and those who would know don’t speak to the public about such things, we may never know which designer was responsible.

You can see many of Bender’s designs in our previous Designer Diaries, including the wedding post linked above.

Master or student design?

What are your thoughts? Add your reasons in the comments!