One of the best-remembered and most beautiful bridal gowns of all time, and one of the most famous since the mid-20th-century was the wedding dress which the American actress Grace Kelly wore on the day of her marriage to Prince Rainer III of Monaco on April 19th, 1956. The gown was once described as one that intensified the matrimonial passion and inspired nuptial fashion; it was a prime influence on many women which endeavored to imitate Kelly’s silk and lace fabric masterpiece. Even recently, the dress is still influential; the wedding gown that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, wore on April 29th, 2011, was said to have been inspired by Princess Grace’s wedding dress.
Kelly’s wedding entailed two separate occasions, the first was a civil ceremony and the second -a church marriage, held on consecutive days. Kelly had lots of help planning and carrying out her wedding day; she was assisted by Helen Rose, MGM Studio’s costume designer. Virginia Darcy was also there to lend a helping hand; she was the designer of the now best-remembered wedding dress of all time and Kelly’s hairstylist at the MGM studio.
Edith Head, a famous American costume designer and close friend of Kelly’s, assumed that she would be asked to design the wedding dress. Instead, Kelly asked Helen Rose, a costume designer in the wardrobe department of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), to create a gown for her. MGM Studios presented the wedding gown to Kelly as a gift.
On April 18th, 1956, the civil ceremony in Monaco was held in the Palace’s elegant throne room. The dress worn by Kelly was made of lustrous silk fabric, covered in cream-colored French Alençon lace, colored in pastel pink. It was designed with a custom-fit upper section, a flared skirt, and a neckline-fitted round collar. She wore fine kid leather gloves and a Juliet meshed cap. The wedding dress for the legally-required civil ceremony was also designed by Helen Rose, who designed the wedding gown for the most important church ceremony. The civil marriage was legally sanctified by Monaco’s Minister of Justice, Marcel Portanier, in accordance with the civil code of Monaco and in the presence of representatives from twenty-four countries and eighty exclusively invited guests.
The formal church wedding ceremony of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, performed at St. Nicholas Cathedral, was held on April 19th, 1956. The Roman Catholic high mass was conducted by the Bishop of Monaco. The bridal gown for this ceremony was absolutely stunning and elegant! It was a high, rounded collared, long-sleeved gown with a custom-fit bodice and billowing skirt. The materials for this magnificent gown included one hundred yards of silk net, smooth ribbed satin, twenty-five yards of fine, lustrous silk fabric, fine lightweight netting, and the intricate 125-year-old Brussels “Point de Rose” lace.
Adorned with jewels such as seed pearls and orange blossoms, the Juliet cap that she wore was beautiful. The veil, made of a lightweight, very fine netting, had a length of 90 yards. Other bridal adornments included a small Bible and a flower bouquet of lily-of-the-valley. An estimate of the manufacturing cost and material cost of the bridal gown is $7,266.68 USD, and this amount wouldn’t even include designer fees.
Kelly and Rose worked very closely together, to create the design of the gown, and the two women searched for inspiration in the MGM costume archives. The MGM movie Invitation portrays a bridal gown that is remarkably similar to Kelly’s.
When the details of the wedding dress were disclosed two days before the wedding, it was given a description of “serenely regal” by the media. While one columnist made the observation that it was a beautiful dress but not an outstanding one, the consensus of the media was that the gown was magnificent. The New York Times, perhaps promoting the awareness of a clothing rivalry between Europe and America, called it a lovely example of an American product. In an expression presented by another reporter, the bridal dress train was described as streaming like a waterway of whipped cream along the luxurious red floor.
The wedding announcement, widely covered by the media, brought about some controversy due to the many commercial establishments trying to exploit her name. A declaration was made by Max Factor that it would provide, as a gift, the cosmetics to complement her wedding dress. The hosiery maker, Willy’s de Mond, proclaimed it would give Kelly stockings trimmed with pearls. All of these kinds of controversial claims were later denied by Princess Grace.
The present owner of the dress is the Philadelphia Museum of Art. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Grace Kelly’s wedding, the gown was displayed at the museum in April and May of 2006. The museum reported that this may have been its most popular exhibition.