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How Denmark’s Queen Margrethe became the most eccentric royal dresser

Queen Margrethe in raincoat and hat
Leaper: 'To observe her eccentricities has been a joy for her subjects and fashion journalists the world over' - Getty Images Europe
Queen Margrethe in raincoat and hat
Leaper: 'To observe her eccentricities has been a joy for her subjects and fashion journalists the world over' - Getty Images Europe

One of the most outstanding pieces in the royal wardrobe of Denmark’s outgoing Queen Margrethe II is a raincoat. She doesn’t wear a boring Barbour, or a subtle navy puffer. Hers is a feel-good floral mac, which the Queen herself designed in 1995 using one of those wipeable tablecloths that you can buy off the roll. Long to rain over us, indeed.

The coat is somewhat emblematic of Queen Margrethe’s entire style ethos, practised during her more than 50 years on the throne. It is brilliantly bright and fun. It is clever and crafty (the Queen is a self-trained costume designer who has worked for Netflix in her spare time). It is also entirely personal – something no one else, particularly anyone belonging to a royal family, could have ever dreamt up.

Queen Margethe attends the Ringsted horse ceremony at Grasten Slot in July 2017
Queen Margethe in the feel-good floral mac, which she herself designed in 1995 using one of those wipeable tablecloths - Getty Images

Queen Margrethe’s uniqueness has made her one of the most exciting royal dressers of all time – one who has consistently marched to her own beat. To observe her eccentricities has been a joy for her subjects and fashion journalists the world over.

“Fashion has caught up with her,” The Telegraph’s Serena Sinclair wrote in 1957 of the then-princess. “She is miles ahead of most of her countrywomen.”

'One of the most exciting royal dressers of all time'
'One of the most exciting royal dressers of all time' - AFP

Articles in the 1970s tracked her annual shopping expeditions on London’s Oxford Street, yet noted that her interest in style above trends was comparable to our own Queen Elizabeth II. “Fashion shopping does not absorb her and she and our Queen meet on equal ground there,” The Telegraph reported.

The late Queen Elizabeth and her third cousin were so close that they would begin all correspondence “Dear sister and cousin”. They each are famed for an iconic look, adhering unwaveringly to royal protocol and appreciating a bold colour palette. Like her British counterpart, Queen Margrethe has also been unequivocally loyal to her nation’s design talents.

But while Elizabeth stuck absolutely to a signature silhouette, for Margrethe there is no set formula. Over the years we have seen her wear jewelled brocade sarees and flamingo pink taffeta gowns, dresses with bird wing-like sleeves and, unapologetically, heaps of furs.

The flamingo pink taffeta gown she wore to a gala banquet in 2018
The flamingo pink taffeta gown she wore to a gala banquet in 2018 - Getty Images Europe
Queen Margrethe of Denmark attends a gala dinner at Christiansborg Palace on November 06, 2023 in Copenhagen, Denmark
She also wears fur unapologetically - Getty Images

Commissioning bespoke clothing allows the Queen to indulge in her experimental side; she initially worked with Erik Mortensen (successor to couturier Pierre Balmian) and the evening dressmaker Jørgen Bender to render her royal wardrobe. Today, the majority of her vivid formalwear is made by tailor Birgitte Thaulow.

Queen Margrethe’s interest in decorative clothing was sparked as a child, observing her father King Frederik IX and his passion for the theatre. As an eight-year-old, attending August Bournonville’s ballet Napoli for the first time with her parents, she was captivated by the scenography and costumes.

Queen Margrethe of Denmark views The Guard Change At Grasten Castle on July 24, 2015 in Denmark
Her style is also 'entirely personal, something no one else, particularly anyone belonging to a royal family, could have ever dreamt up' - Getty Images

Despite earning degrees in archaeology and political science, it was the designing which became her side hustle, of sorts, after becoming Queen in 1972. In the 1980s, she assisted with amateur ballet productions in Næstved, then from time to time took on professional projects when it suited the interest of national arts – a 1987 adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Shepherdess, or a 2021 scenography job for Ehrengard, the Danish Netflix movie based on writer Karen Blixen’s novel.

The passion for colourful textiles displayed in the Queen’s work is directly reflective of her own personal style (Google her Tivoli ballet costumes to see the harlequin patterns and parakeet suits that wouldn’t look out of place in her own wardrobe).

Queen Margrethe attends a gala dinner in 2004
Commissioning bespoke clothing allows the Queen to indulge in her experimental side - Tim Graham Photo Library

“Her passion for costume and interiors really shines through in the way she dresses,” says Stine Goya, the designer whose vivid Copenhagen label is also a bestseller in boutiques around Britain. “She is not at all afraid of colour. She embodies what Danish style is all about – being comfortable in your own skin and imbuing each day with a sense of joy.”

Goya is just one of the contemporary Danish designers who respects the Queen as an artist and cites her as an inspiration. Julie Brøgger, of the London-based brand Brøgger, dedicated her entire spring/summer 2019 collection to the Queen’s style.

The first official photograph of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in 1972
The first official photograph of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in 1972 - Hulton Royals Collection

“Her collaborations with Jørgen Bender and Erik Mortensen [at Balmain] have been especially inspiring,” says Brøgger. “Both created dresses for her that look relevant today. Bender’s coral structural taffeta gown directly inspired pieces in my collection, as well as her 1992 wedding anniversary gown in silver and lilac tulle.”

For Brøgger, though, it’s the floral coat that will forever sum up the Queen’s contribution to the globally popular Scandi style. The clashing colour used represents a sentiment which has been integral to the global success of Danish labels in recent years, and which Brøgger hopes is not lost when Her Majesty abdicates on January 14.

Royal Sisters, Queen Anne Marie of Greece, Princess Benedicte of Denmark, and Queen Margrethe of Denmark
The Queen's choice of clashing colours represents a sentiment which has been integral to the global success of Danish labels in recent years, says Leaper - UK Press

“The floral raincoat I particularly loved,” she says. “She wore it at a rainy meeting with the press outside Gråsten Castle with the Crown Prince and his family. The contrast between the generations is quite striking, and shows her majesty’s humour and unique style.

“Crown Princess Mary [the next Queen] is very elegant, but this coming transition to the next generation is a loss for eccentricity,” Brøgger says.

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