ONLY THE BEST: The Tonie Lewenhaupt collection

Fashion History Highlights from the Donation of Tonie Lewenhaupt

From the exhibition "Only the best"Röhsska Museum

Fashion at the Röhsska  museum

Röhsska museum has a stunning fashion collection with many important designers’ creations. The fashion collection contains pieces from the 18th Century until the present day, and many of the 20th Century premier fashion designers are represented with creations of high artistic quality. The collection also includes a variety of accessories like shoes, handbags and jewelry. Today, the Röhsska fashion collection contains about 450 objects. 

Portrait of Tonie LewenhauptRöhsska Museum

The Tonie Lewenhaupt donation

The core of the museum’s fashion collection consists of a donation from the Swedish costume historian, fashion illustrator, journalist and writer Tonie Lewenhaupt, who donated her private collection to the museum in 1997. 

Dress (1890s) by Jeanne FerranRöhsska Museum


One of the oldes garments in the Lewenhaupt donation is this piece. Surprisingly enough, one single dress, can summon up the spirit of an age and the creative expression in more articulate way than an entire museum. Every detail, every hue, every clarified form spells the new art form of the last Century L ’Art Nouveau or Jugend, Here immortalized by the fashion house Jeanne Ferran in Paris.

Dress (1905) by Ateljé Nanna BaggeRöhsska Museum


The Art Nouveau fashion ideals appreciated elegant decoration with natural motifs such as flowers and insects. Other distinctive traits were embroidery, patterns, and light colours with white as a highly popular colour.

An elegant example in Röhsska’s fashion collection is a white/pink coloured silk chiffon dress made in 1905 in Stockholm by the Nanna Bagge atelier. In the thin lace on the Nanna Bagge dress, delicate floral embroidery creates an ornamented base.

Evening dress (1912) by UnknownRöhsska Museum

Evening dress

This evening gown is made from a Paul Poiret model. Paul Poiret was an important fashion maker in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. He was very much inspired by the Russian Ballet that performed in Paris in 1909 and the costumes of which had oriental influences.

Dress and overcoat Dress and overcoat (1917) by Jeanne PeneRöhsska Museum

Dress and overcoat

New proportions, changing realities, bold
abstractions and unlimited creativity, were all characteristics of the early 1900s when modernism transformed the fashion world.

Dress and overcoat Dress and overcoat (1917) by Jeanne PeneRöhsska Museum

The burgundy dress, made in 1917, with its coat with yellow coloured lining, is infinitely typical of the period. Made for a young Swedish woman, by the lesser known fashion house, of Jeanne Pene in Paris.

Dress and overcoat Dress without overcoat (1917) by Jeanne PeneRöhsska Museum

Dress without overcoat

The dress is asymmetrical with a sailor collar and embroidery in blue and white, depicting a dragon.

From the exhibition "Only the best"Röhsska Museum

The history of fashion and costume 

Toni Lewenhaupt was born in Stockholm in 1937 and ever since she was little she knew that she wanted to work with clothes and fashion in some way but was not quite sure how. Beginning her education at Konstfack, a Swedish university for art, crafts and design, in advertising she soon changed her major to the newly started course in Fashion illustration. The fashion education was a new subject at the time and Lewenhaupt became one of the first students with a decree in the discipline. After school Toni Lewenhaupt got a job at the Bonnier monthly magazine and got the chance to go to the fashion capital of the world, Paris. Her task was to report back to the Swedish readers about what was happening at the big fashion houses and to make drawings of the shown garments to illustrate the latest trends. After years as a fashion reporter she suddenly grew tired of the trend oriented and fugacious fashion world and started her education in art history. She started to connect the two worlds and got more and more fascinated by the idea that fashion is just as an important witness of a time and a society as art, design or architecture. Her interest led her to become one of Swedens most renowned costume historians and to start her own collection of clothes. Together with her late husband, the photographer Cläes Lewenhaupt, she came to wright several books illustrated with Cläes pictures and the two worked as a close team until he passed in 1990.   

Eveningdress (1900-1905)Röhsska Museum

Evening dress

This dress was worn in the Paris high society but according to the label it was purchased at Nordiska Kompaniet in Stockholm. Natural white silk draped with black sparks and lined with black velvet.

Evening dress (1908-1910) by Kramer & JahnkeRöhsska Museum

Evening dress

Shorter and slightly straighter evening gowns came into fashion around 1908–1910 and foreshadowed a new era without corsets and conventions as the evening dresses also received a new bold expression like glimmering long tassels.

Kramer & Jahnke, who delivered this dress, enjoyed the highest prestige in Stockholm’s high society.

Dress (1960s) by Christian DiorRöhsska Museum


”Rose Noir” is the name of this short, loosely pleated evening dress in several layers of chiffon. The long series of black roses which line the dress is visible only when the skirt moves and the chiffon layers flit.

Unexpected implied elegance by the fashion house Dior during the otherwise extrovert 1960s.

Jumper (1990s) by Issey MiyakeRöhsska Museum


The Issey Miyake tunic made in lightweight synthetics from the beginning of the 1990s, is living its own, quiet but obvious, life with its erratic and unruly pleats. Antiquity feels far away, space style much closer.

Dress (1940-1945) by UnknownRöhsska Museum


Unfortunately, this typical angular silk dress from the early 1940’s is designed by an unknown dressmaker. Once upon a time, however, it was used at fancy receptions, events and dinners in Paris.

Constantly chic and always unaffected by rations, chilly rooms, tough weekdays and rare hair washes. Contemporary hats were helpful companions.

From the exhibition "Only the best"Röhsska Museum

The donation

After the passing of Cläes Lewenhaupt Tonie decided to donate parts of her collection to the arts and crafts museum of Sweden, The Röhsska museum, to make sure they were well taken care of and were given eternal life. Many of the garments and accessories that were donated to the museum came from Stina Paccini-Ohlsson. Paccini-Ohlsson owned the fashion store Ohlsson at Stortorget in Malmö which sold haute couture garments from Paris. Stina bought the best and most typical seasonal garments from the most influential fashion houses such as Dior and Givenchy each year to wear while working in the store. The haute couture garments are from the 1940s and 1950s and represents an important part of the haute couture era. Paccini-Ohlsson is not the only private contributor to Lewenhaupts collection and some of the garments were acquired at auctions, including some pieces from the turn of the last century that previously belonged to the prominent costume historian Nancy Bradfields and which is also mentioned in her book, Costume in detail 1730 - 1930. 

Suit, "Tour du Monde" (1954) by Christian DiorRöhsska Museum

Suit "Tour du Monde"

This three-piece suit in pinstriped wool flannel is one of Paccini-Olssons outfits and it became one of the season's most photographed garment when it was displayed in the spring of 1954.

The success was due to the fact that no one had used such classic male materials in a distinctly feminine outfit before.

Dress (1959) by Yves Saint-LaurentRöhsska Museum


The season of 1959 became equally successful for the house of Dior’s new star. Yves Saint-Laurent’s slender and beautifully proportioned little black dress was copied widely, but as always, nothing can beat the original, which once belonged to fashion legend Stina Paccini Ohlsson in Malmö.

Coat (1956) by Christian DiorRöhsska Museum


Summer coat of white woolen cloth woven in plain weave and felted. The coat is double breasted with three large white plastic buttons covered with crushed marble.

According to Tonie Lewenhaupt the coat is characteristic of its season when Dior showed many wide double-breasted coats over narrow pencil dresses with decorative large buttons on the bodice. Even the color, so-called winter white, was the latest fashion and new for outerwear.

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