As the world’s top venues reopen and we begin to reemerge into society, there is one convention that will undoubtedly be returning in full force: weddings. After all, many of us are operating at a deficit of glamour intake. While some may still hold a personal preference for the subdued, we find ourselves ready for over-the-top everything. As we keep our attention turned to the fashionable nuptials that the rest of 2021 will surely bring, we remember one of the most tinseled weddings in history, when Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier married in 1956--and the captivating centerpiece that was the bride’s wedding gown.
The dress was designed by Academy Award-winning costume designer Helen Rose, who had worked on Grace Kelly’s wardrobe in both High Society and The Swan.
It took a village (or in this case, the entire MGM wardrobe department) to create what would be a “fairy-princess” look for the soon-to-be real life princess, and the finished dress used over 400 yards of fabric.
The gown has been a clear point of inspiration in bridal fashion, perhaps most notably for the Duchess of Cambridge’s own wedding gown, which was strikingly similar in its silhouette and lace fabrication.
Princess Grace’s wedding gown involved such a multitude of special, thoughtful details, many of which are all but lost in modern bridal fashion. This was couture in the truest sense. For Helen Rose, the woman behind the legendary design, Grace Kelly was
“A dream to work with...I showed her two sketches of the final design and she chose the one she wanted. That was all there was to it."
Kelly opted for romantic headwear,
eschewing an ornate tiara in favor of a Juliet cap constructed from pearl-adorned lace and paper orange blossoms and a circular veil, designed specifically so as not to obstruct Kelly’s famous face.
In lieu of a bouquet of flowers,
the devout Catholic bride carried Rev. J.M. Lelen’s Bride’s Manual: A Manual of Catholic Devotion with Mass for the Marriage Ceremony and the Nuptial Blessing during her wedding to Prince Rainier. The book was a gift from a family friend, and MGM embellished it with silk, lace, and pearls to match her dress. She carried it with a small bunch of lilies of the valley.
Her petticoats featured small blue satin bows
sewn throughout, checking the “something blue” box.
And the lace was certainly “something old.”
In fact, it was 125 years old at the time, and imported from Brussels, contributing to the dress’s estimated $60,000 cost—one of the most expensive wedding gowns in history.
There were quite a few dresses, as it happens. While this famous gown takes center stage in fashion history, Kelly’s bridal trousseau included a two-piece civil ceremony ensemble crafted in pink silk brocade, a demure tea-length dress with a bow-collar, paired with white gloves, which she wore for a press conference, and an embellished gown by French designer Lanvin, which she wore to the Monaco Opera following her Civil Ceremony.
Princess Grace gifted her legendary wedding gown and accessories to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1956. More can be learned via their online exhibit here.
Photo Credits: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bettman