Why Grace Kelly’s Wedding Gown Still Defines the Royal Chic

Grace Kelly
Photo of Grace Kelly at her wedding on April 19, 1956.

The iconic lace masterpiece that the American Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly wore during her glamorous wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco on April 19, 1956, in Monaco’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral is still cited as one of the best remembered royal bridal gowns of all time.

Grace Kelly’s striking high-necked garment, “flowing like a river of whipped cream among the plush red floor,” according to international media, was designed by U.S. Academy Award-winning costume designer Helen Rose of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) media company.

Grace Kelly's wedding
Grace Kelly’s wedding entourage included her sister and Matron of Honor Peggy, six bridesmaids, and six junior attendants.

This timelessly elegant gown featuring long sleeves, a fitted bodice, and a billowing dress was offered to Grace as a wedding gift from the MGM studios and shared several similarities with the bridal dress created for the MGM melodrama “Invitation” (1952) starring Van Johnson and Dorothy McGuire.

The wedding gown Helen Rose designed for the role Dorothy McGuire played in the 1952 "Invitation" film.
The wedding gown Helen Rose designed for the role Dorothy McGuire played in the 1952 “Invitation” film.

The stunning creation of Helen Rose was made of twenty-five yards of silk taffeta, one hundred yards of silk net, peau de soie, tulle and 125-year-old Brussels rose point lace. The dress consisted of several separate parts, including a lace bodice, an attached under-bodice, two petticoats, a silk faille sash, a pleated silk faille skirt, and a train that measured three feet in length. Grace Kelly wore a Juliet cap that was embellished with orange blossoms, seed pearls, and a tulle veil measuring 90 yards.

Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly during the 1956 wedding ceremony in Monaco.

During the wedding ceremony, the graceful princess was carrying a lace, silk and pearl-encrusted prayer book and a small bouquet of Lilies of the Valley. The look was completed with a pair of  2½-inch heels decorated with lace and seed pearls by David Evins. The pumps were also embellished with Grace’s name in the left shoe, and the designer’s in the right shoe. For good luck, Evins added a copper penny to his creation.

Grace Kelly's 2½-inch wedding heels
Grace Kelly’s 2½-inch wedding heels
X-rays of Grace Kelly's wedding heels. A copper penny can be seen embedded inside one of the heels.
X-rays of Grace Kelly’s wedding heels. A copper penny can be seen embedded inside one of the heels.

The dramatic gown that Kate Middleton wore during her royal wedding to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, on April 29, 2011, as well as the fairy-tale bridal creation that Australian model Miranda Kerr wore during her 2017 wedding were some of the most successful copies of Grace Kelly’s much-admired dress. However, the clothing piece that was most similar was the dress that the fictional character Emma Swan, portrayed by Jennifer Morrison, wore in the 2017 episode ” The Song in Your Heart” of the “Once Upon a Time” TV series.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, which now owns the iconic gown, organized the “Fit for a Princess: Grace Kelly’s Wedding Dress” exhibition, running from April 1st through May 21st, 2006, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 wedding.