Hollywood has never failed in its mission to discover gorgeous actresses and share their talent with the world. These Venuses of the big screen have inspired audiences who are not only captivated by their performances but also by their beauty and style. Marilyn Monroe enhanced the image of curvy blondes; Ava Gardner established the glamour of the brunette; and Audrey Hepburn defined timeless elegance. These legendary actresses have proven the well-known maxim that beauty fades but style remains and, of course, there’s no use in talking about style and Hollywood if special mention is not given to Grace Kelly.
Alfred Hitchcock described her as “a snow-covered volcano” and “a powerful, very beautiful force on screen” when talking about her in Rear Window, Kelly’s fifth film but the one to seal her place high in the Hollywood pecking order. Although her film career lasted for only five years, her elegance and beauty ensured that she became a lasting symbol of sophistication.
Even her name, “Grace,” evokes her elegant allure. It can be said that Grace Kelly didn’t have or even followed a certain style–she had a style all her own, from head to toe. No wonder she was the first actress to appear on a postage stamp or that the fashion house Hermes created a “Kelly Bag” in her honor. Her classic American style is known as the “Grace Kelly Look,” which united subtlety, esprit, simplicity, and elegance.
In one scene of Rear Window, the photojournalist Jeff (James Stewart) asks his girlfriend, fashion editor Lisa (Grace Kelly): “Is this the Lisa Freemont who never wears the same dress twice?” and she answers “Only because it’s expected of her.” Kelly knew that this wasn’t only expected of Lisa but of herself too, especially after she cast a spell over her Prince Charming, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, whom she met in 1956 at the Cannes Film Festival. His proposal culminated in a fairy tale marriage that was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated.
One of the reporters from the Boston Globe commented: “Never have so many women brought so much luggage to such a small country for so few days,” referring to Kelly and her bridesmaids who sailed from New York to Monaco for the wedding ceremony, carrying 80 pieces of luggage and a poodle named Oliver, Kelly’s darling pet that her colleague Cary Grant gave her as a present. They arrived at Monaco’s port where they were welcomed by 1,800 photographers and reporters and thousands of citizens who, reportedly, were all invited to the wedding.
Becoming a princess was certainly not an easy task, and a small “army” was recruited in order to create an impeccable wedding ceremony. The public was immensely interested in the future princess’s wedding dress, which was kept a top secret until the grand day. Kelly had been presented with two dresses from MGM studios, both created by costume designer Helen Rose. Rose was also the creator of numerous other professional costumes for Kelly, including those she wore in The Swan and High Society.
The marriage of Kelly to Prince Rainer III of Monaco carried out the two distinct functions of a civil marriage and a religious marriage. The ceremonies were held on two successive days. The lace masterpiece, as some have called it, was in fact two separate wedding outfits–one for the civil and the other for the religious ceremony.
For the civil ceremony, which took place on the April 18, 1956, in the Throne Room of the palace in Monaco, Kelly was dressed in a light pink, embroidered taffeta dress covered with a champagne-colored lace, a pair of silk gloves in a matching color, and an elegant Juliet cap.
The following day, April 19, was reserved for the religious ceremony, which was held at Saint Nicholas Cathedral.
Over 30 seamstresses had been hired to make the elegant garment that Kelly wore to the religious ceremony. It included gorgeous sleeves made of the finest lace, a high collar, and a full skirt. The dress consisted of a bodice with an under-bodice included and an attached support for the skirt. The dress was created from lace of the “Brussels delicate rose” type, which was over 120 years old, and taffeta and tulle supported by a soft, light-woven skirt with three petticoats: a smoothing one, a ruffled one. and one which was set as a foundation.
The beautiful outfit was jazzed up with a 90-yard veil attached to a beaded, floral Juliet cap, worn instead of the classic bridal tiara.
In her hands, Kelly carried a delicate bouquet of Lilies of the Valley and a tiny prayer book, coated with pearls. Her shoes were designed by David Evins, and included silk needle lace, silk faille, seed pearls, and glass beads. Following an old traditional custom, Evins hid a copper coin in her right shoe in order to attract good fortune.
The bridesmaids’ dresses were designed by Joseph Hong of Neiman Marcus and created by Priscilla Kidder. The dresses were made of a sunlight hue of silk organdy, laid over an underdress made of a matching yellow silk taffeta. The matrons of honor held bouquets of tea roses in their hands while the flower girls carried white daisies as they walked down the aisle.
Grace Kelly’s hair was styled by Sydney Guilaroff, while her makeup was so subtle that it gave her an almost angelic bridal look.
The ceremony was well photographed by the media, whose archives keep on revealing photos previously unknown by the public, stirring the never-ending popularity of Princess Kelly and Prince Rainier’s wedding. Five decades after the wedding, Grace Kelly’s dress continues to influence wedding couture and provoke worldwide admiration.
The original dress is owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it was displayed during a special exhibition in 2006 that broke all records for an exhibition held at the museum.