Robe de Cour at the Swedish Court

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The French court dress Le grand habit, worn at many European courts during the 18th century, was introduced in Sweden in the 1740’s by the crown princess Lovisa Ulrika, sister to Fredric II of Prussia. The robe de cour remained the official ceremonial dress for women at the Swedish court until Gustavus III launched the Swedish National Costume in 1778.
The four robes de cour preserved in the Royal Armory in Stockholm, worn by three Swedish queens at their weddings and coronations 1751-1774, are unique in their kind. The costumes are complete with boned bodice, petticoat over a huge hoop, and long train. Thanks to the documentation and pattern made by Janet Arnold (1967), the wedding dress of the Danish princess Sofia Magdalena from 1766 is well known. This paper will take a closer look at all four dresses, with special focus on the bodices. Since I have had the opportunity to study all four bodices at the same occasion, the objects themselves are used as source together with written, and visual evidence. This approach suggests new understanding of the production, use and meaning of the robe the cour in a Swedish context.
Although identical at first glance, the close examination reveal differences over time in the construction, the working process, individual technical solutions, and changes in the tailoring techniques. The robes de cour gives an impression of constancy, but during the 23 years elapsed changes are evident between Lovisa Ulrika’s coronation dress and Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta’s wedding dress. While Lovisa Ulrika’s is somewhat coarse and heavy in sewing and execution, Hedvig’s bodice communicates an attempt to achieve a lightness and refinement within the given frame. The comparison raises questions about the tailor’s work and the possibilities for the individual craftsman to develop his techniques over time, and the relation between construction techniques for court bodices and stay making in general.
The 18th century court dress is one of the most exclusive and extreme costumes in history, picturing a luxurious lifestyle of the elite, serving as an example of the ultimate madness in fashion, and a way of using fashion as distinction and manifestation of power. As ceremonial dress the robe de cour is at the same time in the periphery of fashion, a timeless dress separated from fashion changes, worn in an excluding milieu with splendor and legitimacy of royal power and order of society as its primary function. This gives the court dress a contradictive position in the fashion history, as do the structuring bodices’ position as both under and outer wear.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Design
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sep 13
Publication categoryResearch
EventStructuring Fashion - Foundation Garments through History - Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, München, Germany
Duration: 2018 Sep 132018 Sep 15


ConferenceStructuring Fashion - Foundation Garments through History
Internet address

Related research output

Pernilla Rasmussen, 2019 Oct, I historiens virvlar: Biografiska betraktelser tillägnade Eva Helen Ulvros. Karlsson, K-G., Zander, U. & Severinsson, E. (eds.). Lund: Histoiska Media, p. 82-111 29 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

Pernilla Rasmussen, 2019 Sep, Structuring Fashion: Foundation Garments through History. Pietsch, J. & Kammel, F. M. (eds.). München: Hirmer Verlag, p. 84-99 15 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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