When you think of the fairytale vintage wedding, it’s likely that you think of Grace Kelly and her romantic love story with Prince Rainer III of Monaco. In fact, not only did she look like a Princess that day, she actually became one too. Grace Kelly is someone many want to emulate, and her classic and classy wedding gown is to die for. Did you know that she had two wedding gowns? Read on for more on this and what else was worn at Grace Kelly’s wedding.
The dress reflected that of a Hollywood actress marrying into the Monégasque Royal Family and is one of the most celebrated dresses of the 20th century.
Not only was Grace Kelly at the height of her career in 1956 when she married, after her nuptials she was to become a princess and her gown needed to reflect that. The wedding itself was broadcast by multiple European channels, and was witnessed by over 30 million viewers who tuned in to catch the first glimpse of the blushing bride.
The groom, who in Monaco tradition made his entrance after his bride, wore a military uniform he had designed himself. After a nervous Kelly and Rainer exchanged vows, with Kelly whispering “Oui” when asked if she took the Prince as her husband she officially became her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco.
Facts about Grace Kelly’s Wedding
MGM gave her the gown
Always emulated, and most recently by Kate Middleton in her 2011 gown by Sarah Burton, the dress by Academy Award winning costume designer Helen Rose came as a gift from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to their famous starlet. Rose had dressed Grace Kelly before having worked on wardrobe for four of her films. Rose had also designed Elizabeth Taylor’s first wedding gown when she married Conrad “Nicky” Hilton.
The dress with its high neckline, fitted bodice and silk taffeta skirt featuring thousands of hand-sewn pearls and a three-foot long train took months to create.
The gown itself manages to be spectacular and simple and is floor-length and white in colour.
The Dress consisted of 10 parts
The Studio’s wardrobe department created the fairytale princess look using 10 separate pieces. The lace bodice also came with a slip, skirt support and underbodice with foundation, ruffled and smoothing petticoats went under the silk faille skirt. Finally a train insert and silk faille cummerbund completed the dress.
I imagine it was difficult to carry the weight of this dress around all day. It really must have been heavy! As always, she carried herself with elegance.
Over 400 yards of fabric was used
The 10 components of course needed a lot of material. In addition to the skirt made using ivory silk faille (a type of taffeta), 100 yards of silk net was also used for this gown.
The bodice is high neck with a round collar and full-length sleeves. Tiny button run down the front to the cummerbund with the bodice being decorated by antique Brussels lace and seed pearls. The underbodice features a sweetheart neckline made in the same colour as the rest of the gown.
With the top of the dress being very elaborate the skirt is simplistic, although it must have been heavy. With three petticoats underneath the skirts, she must have been warm – especially as she also wore a slip and skirt support. Tiny satin bows supposedly cover one petticoat with the skirt itself being bell shaped.
Underneath the skirt sits a triangular train insert made with tulle and lace. A slit at the back of the gown is closed with two elaborate silk bows, before billowing open to reveal the stunning three-foot long train.
Finally the silk cummerbund as a last finishing touch. A cummerbund,or waist sash, is more often part of a man’s formal evening attire, but this is a perfect addition to Grace Kelly’s wedding gown. Helen Rose carefully pleated the cummerbund from the same silk faille. The cummerbund draws the entire ensemble together, accentuating Kelly’s natural curves and creating a more empire line for the dress.
Her cap had a flower crown
Instead of an elaborate tiara, Grace Kelly opted for a simple Juliet cap to hold her veil in place. This headpiece included pearls and lace to match her gown as well as a wreath of paper orange blossoms.
This was common of the time to use flowers in a bride’s hair. I think this is a beautiful way to style one’s hair. Well-made and realistic looking flowers would be simply wonderful.
The lace had a lot of embellishment
Not only was the beautiful antique Brussels lace covered in hundreds of seed pearls, the seamstresses also re-embroidered the lace on her bodice to hide any seams.
Not one detail was missed on this gown – can you imagine your eyesight after working on the lace and beadwork?
The circular veil had an important purpose
As an A-list movie star who was marrying a Prince, Grace Kelly’s wedding was not a small one. She wore a specially designed veil that aimed to keep her face as visible as possible to the 600 in-person guests and the estimated 30 million viewers watching from afar. Appliqués lace motifs around the edges of her veil included two tiny lovebirds.
Grace Kelly’s veil was 90 yards long and made from very fine netting. Falling just below her bust so her dress could be seen clearly the edges were delicately scalloped.
A prayer book replaced a large bouquet
Many devout mid-20th century brides often carried a Bible instead of a large bouquet. Grace Kelly received her book as a gift which MGM then embellished with silk, lace and pearls. Kelly carried the missal and a small bunch of lilies of the valley on the big day.
There was a penny hidden in her shoe
Prince Rainer III already stood close in height to his bride-to-be, so the bride wore 2 1/2 inch heels. David Evins designed the pumps, and of course added seed pearls and lace. He embossed her name in the left shoe and Prince Rainer III in the right, where he also added a shiny copper penny for good luck.
I love this idea of having both yours and your husband/wife-to-be’s name in your shoe. I would love to be able to wear them on a special occasion too – maybe I’m being sentimental ?
There was another dress
While the elaborate religious ceremony on April 19th 1956 attracted the most attention, Grace Kelly actually first wed her royal beau the day before in a civil ceremony. Helen Rose also created this pink floral ensemble which was accessorised with another Juliet cap.
This elegant pink brocade two-piece was also made with taffeta and covered with French Alençon lace was also designed by Helen Rose. The delicate pale pink taffeta was decorated with cream coloured lace and featured a high, round collar finished with a thin lace bow. A discreet central line of buttons led to the rounded bottom of the jacket which sat at her waist. The jacket also featured three-quarter length sleeves and was worn with a pair of wrist-length evening gloves.
This chic and understated outfit was the perfect warm up to slipping into one of the most famous wedding dresses of all time.
There were gowns for after the wedding ceremony too
To accept nuptial congratulations at a quick press conference, Kelly donned another tea-length ensemble on April 18th 1956. This wasn’t her last look of the day, as she slipped into a white silk Lanvin gown that night at a gala.
Writing this article, I have found it very difficult to choose a favourite. I have always said I wanted to have outfit changes for my nuptials so maybe I will take inspiration from Ms Kelly.
Non-fashion related facts about Grace Kelly’s Wedding
Among the 600 guests that were there in person, such heavyweights such as Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner, Aristotle Onassis and Conrad Hilton attended. After the ceremony, guests were treated to a six-tier wedding cake which was gifted to the newlyweds by the pastry chefs at Monte Carlo’s Hotel de Paris.
As a gift from the people of Monaco, they also received a Rolls-Royce convertible which they used as their mode of transport while parading on the streets of Monte Carlo.
The new Princess and her Prince sailed off into the sunset on a gift from Onassis, a 147-foot yacht name Deo Juvante II, and spent their honeymoon around the Mediterranean.
Would you have a vintage style wedding fit for a princess like Grace Kelly’s wedding? I certainly would, although part of me would also like to elope to Las Vegas!
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