Every woman feels like a princess on her wedding day, but what if you were a real princess bride? What would you choose to wear? What accessories to carry with you? What bridal bouquet and rings and all the other stuff? Here is a perfect example of a royal blushing bride – actress Grace Kelly who married the prince of Monaco. Let’s take in all the details of her wedding gown, bridal veil, shoes, and the rest of her ensemble. Did you know that she had a copper penny in her shoe?
The article is based on a video by Amanda Hallay, fashion historian
In this material, we will lake a closer look at the beautiful Grace Kelly’s wedding gown, designed for her wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco by Helen Rose.
The wedding occurred on April 19th, 1956. This was the religious ceremony. The civil ceremony had taken place the day before.
Of course, this was a royal wedding but, in many ways, it was also a Hollywood wedding. Grace Kelly was under contract with MGM, she was supposed to start filming but she had to drop out to marry her Prince Charming. MGM let her out of her contract on the condition that they allow her to film and televise live her wedding from Monaco, which they did to 30 million viewers around the world.
The first big surprise regarding the wedding dress is that it wasn't designed by Edith Head. Edith Head and Grace Kelly were very good friends, but MGM insisted that an MGM designer produced the wedding dress. And so they called upon Helen Rose. Though Grace and Helen were also good friends and she had worked on a lot of Grace Kelly's movies.
It was Grace's idea that they look back on some of Helen Rose's earlier designs. And we can actually trace the evolution of Grace Kelly's wedding dress to Elizabeth Taylor’s dress. She wears it in “Father of the Bride”, 1950. Elizabeth loved this dress so much that she commissioned Helen Rose to construct something similar for her 1950 wedding to Nicky Hilton.
You can see it has that satin bodice with the lace overlay and high neck. But the biggest influence on Grace Kelly's wedding dress was definitely from 1952 “Invitation”, starring Van Johnson and Dorothy McGuire, with costumes, of course, by Helen Rose.
This is the gown that Helen designs for Dorothy McGuire in the movie. And look how very similar it is to Grace Kelly's wedding dress.
It's only those big peplums on the side of the gown on the right, almost like an 18th-century panier, that really separates the two dresses.
Let’s zoom in to see some detail. Grace's collar is a little bit higher and, of course, there are the buttons. We can't tell in either version if the bodice is strapless or if it has spaghetti straps. There is a long-sleeved lace overlay on this gown and a large pleated cummerbund (broad waist sash).
Here’s a nice image of Grace Kelly’s wedding gown. It comes from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
And here's some statistics for you. The dress was made of peau de soi, 125 yards (114 m) of silk taffeta, 100 yards (91 m) of silk net, tulle, 125-year-old Belgian rose point lace, and seed pearls.
The gown was constructed of a bodice with long-sleeved lace overlay, a skirt with support, an overskirt, and 2 petticoats (one of which was attached to the garment). The attached petticoat was smooth so that the dress would hang smoothly. And the separate petticoat that went beneath was flounced to provide that necessary volume.
The dress cost $80,000 in today's money. It took 30 seamstresses 6 weeks to put this dress together.
Here's a close-up photo. You can see how the skirt is constructed and how those pleats and folds and the distance between them actually gives that peplumy-panier type effect. Also, look at the folds on the waistband and that wonderful embroidery on her veil.
The MGM insisted that the veil be very, very fine so that you could always see Grace Kelly's face. After all, this was going to be televised. The embroidery around the bottom of the veil has flowers and lily-of-the-valley because that is what Grace carried in her hand, along with a Bible. But there was also a pair of lovebirds embroidered to speak to the romance of Grace and Rainier.
Instead of wearing a tiara, which is sort of ubiquitous at a royal wedding, Helen Rose designed this Juliet cap with three points. And it's constructed using some of that antique Belgian lace, seed pearls, and these pretty little orange blossoms fashioned out of waxed paper.
Grace's shoes were designed by another American designer David Evans. They are covered with lace that imitates that Belgian lace used elsewhere and they feature a seed pearl detail. But also, Grace Kelly asked David if he would somehow add a copper penny to her shoes. A copper penny is traditionally an item of good luck for a bride. And when the Philadelphia Museum of Art x-rayed these shoes, they found that the penny is inserted into the underneath of the arch on the shoe.
In Grace's hand, she carried a Bible that was a gift from a friend. And MGM employed a designer to cover it with lace, embroidery, and seed pearls.
This gown struck the perfect note – it was utterly of its time and fashionable, and yet it wasn't too trendy. It was timeless, it was regal, but not stuffy. It was glamorous but not too flashy. This dress definitely was a hit and every bride-to-be in the next couple of years followed Grace's wedding gown style.