An American Bride – Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly is known as the quintessential elegant bride and when she married Prince Rainer in 1956 she wore not one but two dresses, a pale pink lace dress for the civil ceremony and a traditional white wedding dress for the religious ceremony that took place the next day.  Although her wedding took place over sixty years ago, her wedding dress design has become the standard and inspiration for many brides throughout the years.  (For more detailed information about the Wedding of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, please click on the link)

The Civil Ceremony Dress

The civil ceremony of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly took place in the throne room of the Monaco Palace on April 18, 1956.  The Napoleonic Code of Monaco required a civil ceremony take place before the religious ceremony.  The service was performed by the Monaco Minister of Justice, with the vows exchanged in French, and there were only 80 guests in attendance.  Grace wore a dress created by Helen Rose, the MGM studio costume designer, who also made the bridal dress for the religious ceremony.  (For more information on the American Movie Costume Designer Helen Rose, please click on the link) 

The two-piece dress for the civil ceremony was made of pale pink taffeta with an overlay of cream colored Alencon lace.  The dress featured a fitted bodice, high round collar, three quarter sleeves and a flared skirt which she accessorized with pink pumps, white gloves and a pink hat trimmed with silk flowers.  Prince Rainer wore striped trousers, a white vest and a black morning coat.

The Wedding Dress

The religious ceremony took place on April 19, 1956 at the St. Nicholas Church and the service was performed by the bishop of Monaco with 600 guests in attendance including international heads of state and other diplomats as well as Hollywood celebrities.    

Grace’s wedding dress was a stunning creation designed by Helen Rose of MGM studios, it took six weeks using three dozen seamstresses and cost an estimated $7200.00.  The dress used twenty-five yards of silk taffeta, one hundred yards of silk netting, tulle, peau de soie and antique Brussels lace that was over 125 years old.  (peau de soie is a soft silk fabric of satin weave which has a dull finish)  The elegant dress was designed with a high collar, long sleeves, a fitted bodice, a full skirt and a train that measured three feet in length.  Additionally, the bodice had a structured under bodice for support and two petticoats were worn underneath to provide fullness to the skirt; a train insert and silk faille cummerbund completed the wedding dress.  To dress was impeccability finished with special care and to conceal the seams of the dress hundreds of seed pearls were sewn onto the fabric.  Prince Rainier wore a Napoleonic styled military uniform which he personally designed for his wedding day.        

Special Note: Grace was born on November 12, 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and later went to New York and then Hollywood, California to pursue her acting career.  After the wedding, Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco, as she was now known as, gifted her wedding dress and accessories to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Shown below are photos of Grace’s wedding dress
from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

On her wedding day Grace wore a Juliet style headpiece that beautifully complimented her wedding dress.  The headpiece was worn to the back of her head and featured the same pearl embroidered lace which matched the bodice of her wedding dress.  To further embellish the headpiece were wax orange blossoms and small pearls wired to form leaves.

Shown below are photos of Grace’s wedding headpiece
from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

Attached to the headpiece was a tulle veil which featured appliqued lace that included two small lovebirds.  Special care was taken to keep her beautiful face visible for the guests to see as well as the estimated 30 million viewers that would be watching on television.

Shown in the photo below are the details of the beautiful tulle veil

Grace wore custom made shoes by David Evins, a leading American shoe maker that Grace had previously worked with.  The wedding shoes were covered with lace to match the dress and had a 2 ½ inch heels.  Grace also requested that a copper penny be added to her right shoe, a traditional good luck charm for brides, and one was sewn into the arch of the shoe.

Finally, on her wedding day Grace carried a small bouquet made of lilies of the valley and a small Bible.  The bible was a gift from a family friend and a custom cover was made by the MGM wardrobe department of silk faille with a lace applique overlay embellished with seed pearls.

Grace’s wedding dress has remained one of the most famous and iconic wedding dress for decades … that is until 2011 when Kate Middleton married Prince William!  It has been said that Grace’s wedding dress was the inspiration and had a direct influence on the design of Kate’s dress, see the photo below for a side by side comparison.  (For more information on Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding, please see British Royal Wedding – Part 4)