We have looked at a lot of iconic wedding dress at The Wedding Secret. However, if there is one that we have to say is the most iconic, it would be Grace Kelly’s. Often referred to as the most beautiful bride of our time, American actress Grace Kelly married Rainier III, Crown Prince of Monaco in 1956 to become Grace, Princess of Monaco.
The entire population of the microstate received invitations to the celebration following the highly anticipated ceremony. MGM recorded the grand affair and, 28 days later, released as the film, The Wedding in Monaco. The coming together of royalty and A-list Hollywood seemed a fantasy that played out to adoring audiences all over the globe.
Pretty in Pink
Now, we want to establish one thing before we continue: Grace, like many brides, wore two dresses. One was for her civil ceremony, and the second was her iconic dress for her religious ceremony. For most of this article we will be looking at the second dress she wore, but let’s look briefly at her civil ceremony wedding dress.
Grace chose a delicate two piece suit in pale pink taffeta, decorated with cream coloured lace. The jacket featured a high, rounded collar finished with a thin lace bow, and three quarter length sleeves. A discrete central line of buttons leads to the rounded bottom of the jacket which sat on her waist. Under this she wore a beautiful skirt that fell to her mid-calf with a gentle flair. She completed the look with a Juliet cap and a pair of wrist-length evening gloves.
The civil ceremony took place in the Throne Room in Prince Rainier’s palace to around 80 guests. The Princess of Monaco showed off the ensemble she wore when they met briefly with well-wishers. Her 142 new titles were read in front of 3,000 citizens of Monaco at the reception that followed. The outfit was designed by MGM costumière Helen Rose, who also designed the dress for Grace’s religious ceremony.
As we have mentioned, Rose designed the outfits for both Princess Grace’s civil and religious ceremonies. However, Rose’s connection to Grace didn’t end there.
Grace had acted for the company MGM (Metro-Goldywn-Mayer) since auditioning for the film Mogambo in 1952. MGM offered her a seven-year contract and she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for the role. The actress won her first Oscar award for The Country Girl in 1955, just days before traveling to Cannes film festival. As her next role involved playing a princess, MGM suggested she meet a prince while she was in the area.
The prince in question was, of course, Rainier III. It is because of the studio that they met. She was one of their biggest stars, therefore they made her wedding dress as a gift. Furthermore, they knew that she would be unable to continue making films after her wedding. As a result, they gave Rose the job of making the princess’ dresses.
And Helen was familiar with outfitting Grace as she had made costumes for four of the bride’s films. This included clothes from The Swan, the film in which Grace played a princess. She had also made wedding dresses for another MGM sweetheart, Elizabeth Taylor. She had designed similar dresses for the actress’ on screen wedding in Father of the Bride and her real-life one to Conrad Hilton.
However, none of these came close to Princess Grace’s wedding gown. This was the most expensive gown that Rose had ever designed, consisted of 25 yards of silk taffeta, 100 yards of silk net, and took 30 seamstresses six weeks to make.
The Wedding Dress
Okay, enough with the preamble, we really all want to see the dress.
It is no wonder that it continues to influence brides today, as it is truly stunning. Somehow, it manages to be both spectacular and simple. The gown is floor-length and white in colour. It was actually created with ten individual pieces, which can be grouped into four parts. This consists of the bodice, the skirt, the train and the cummerbund.
Because this wasn’t an uncomplicated gown, this was not a straightforward bodice. It was actually comprised of an underbodice, the lace bodice, a skirt support and a slip. We can imagine that the princess needed great strength just to hold up this section of her great gown!
The bodice featured a high neck with a round collar and full-length sleeves. It featured a line of tiny buttons down the front to her cummerbund. Antique Brussels lace decorated the bodice itself, which had invisible seams due to the fact that it was skilfully re-embroidered on the dress. Hundreds of seed pearls then delicately covered the floral motifs.
The underbodice, meanwhile, featured a sweetheart neckline made in the same colour as the rest of the gown.
While the top of the dress may have been complicated, the bottom sounds like it would have been very heavy. Underneath her pleated silk faille skirt, she wore three petticoats: smoothing, ruffled and foundation. We can only imagine how warm all of this must have been, especially as she also wore a slip which was attached to her bodice, and a skirt support. Supposedly, tiny satin bows covered one of the petticoats. The skirt itself had a bell-shape and was ivory in colour. The iconic silhouette has become highly influential of more recent bridal trends.
The material it was made out of, faille, is a type of silk which is lightly ribbed. It is known to be a very difficult fabric to work with. However, Helen Rose and her team made it look spectacular due to their great expertise.
Underneath the skirt sat a triangular insert made of tulle and lace. A slit at the back of the skirt was closed with two elaborate silk bows, before billowing open to reveal the beautiful three-foot long train.
A cummerbund, or waist sash, is more often part of a man’s formal evening attire. However, it goes perfectly with Grace’s dress as the last finishing touch. Rose also made this from silk faille and carefully pleated it. It drew the outfit together and accentuated the princess’ natural curves. It also hugged her breasts to give the dress more of an empire shape.
Grace Kelly’s veil was 90 yards long and made from very fine netting. The front of it fell to just below her bust, so that the dress could be seen more clearly. It was also made so that her face was very visible, due to the way it was attached to her headpiece. The edges were delicately scalloped.
Exquisite rose-point lace was used to fashion the veil. Supposedly, this was 125 years old and purchased from a museum. Afterwards, embroiderers added thousands of tiny pearls, as well as details including two tiny love birds within the lace appliqué.
It is common practice for royal brides to wear tiaras. However, Grace chose instead to wear a Juliet head cap, which featured a wreath of wax and paper orange blossoms. It was also trimmed with seed pearls and lace. Its circular shape at the top helped the veil to lay without rippling over the princess’ face. Considering most photographs would have been taken from afar, the pure dedication in the detailing of this headpiece is magnificent.
While many brides opt for massive bouquets, Grace was a lot more demure. Her bouquet consisted of a prayer book, gifted by a family friend, and tiny bouquet of lilies of the valley. However, this wasn’t completely unusual for the time, as many mid-20th century brides took Bibles down the aisle.
Of course, though, this wasn’t any ordinary Bible. In fact, it was a “Bride’s Manual”, edited by Reverend J M Lenen and decorated by the MGM wardrobe department. It was wrapped in silk, with two rows of seed pearls creating a cross in the centre of the cover, and the rest was decorated with lace appliqué and more pearls.
As Grace was nearly the same height as her husband, she chose shoes with only a 2.5 inch heel. She tasked David Evins, the “king of pumps” with creating these custom shoes. The pumps showcased seed pearls, and floral lace motifs outlined with thread. Moreover, there was a rosette made from seed pearls and clear glass beads on each toe. Inside the shoes, Evins embossed Grace’s name on the left shoe and his own on the right. X-rays have found a coin hidden in the right shoe, a popular symbol of good luck on your wedding day.
Return to Fame
It’s no wonder this spectacular dress is thought of as one of the most elegant bridal gowns of all time. Numerous designers have been, and still are, creating dresses for modern brides based around Helen Rose’s magnificent original creation.
In addition, popularity for the style has only increased as everyone from Kate Middleton to Ivanka Trump wed in dresses of a similar style. You can find your own from designers such as Ellis Bridals and Pronovias. You can find stockists of both of these brands, and many more similar dresses, on our directory.
Finally, what are your thoughts on this dress? Is it one of the most beautiful wedding dresses ever made, or would you much rather wear something else entirely? Let us know below!