A British Royal Bride – Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

Previously I featured a post on the British Royal Wedding of Prince Albert George (later King George VI) and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later known as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother); they were married on April 26, 1923 at Westminster Abbey in London, England.  In this post I will discuss the bridal dress and accessories that she wore on her wedding day, but first let’s start by discussing her trousseau.

Lady Elizabeth’s bridal trousseau

Prior to her marriage to Prince Albert, Lady Elizabeth’s wardrobe consisted mainly of casual dresses for her simple life in the country and a few evening dresses for when she occasionally socialized with the upper class London society.  Now, by marrying into the Royal family, she would need additional clothes for future Royal daytime engagements and evening State formal occasions.  So, after her engagement, Lady Elizabeth set about assembling a significant trousseau made by several fashion designers from London, Paris and Rome.  Her trousseau included approximately 65 formal gowns and over 100 daytime, tea and evening dresses plus 72 fur coats and a few dozen fashionable hats.  Special Note:  By definition, a trousseau is comprised of the personal possessions of a bride usually including clothes, accessories, and household linens and wares.

Lady Elizabeth’s wedding dress and accessories

For her wedding dress Lady Elizabeth decided to use the same dress designer as Queen Mary, her future mother-in-law,   Despite the fact that the wedding was taking place at the beginning of the 1920s, Madame Handley-Seymour designed an unusual medieval style dress.  The ivory chiffon moiré dress featured a square neckline with a bodice decorated with horizontal silver lame panels embroidered with silver thread and accented with pearl beads.  Also attached to the dress was a long train made of Nottingham lace.  Lady Elizabeth’s shoes were made from ivory silk moiré and embroidered with silver roses.   Special Note: Defying an old superstition of a bride wearing green on her wedding day bringing bad luck, the silver leaf girdle of the dress had green tulle flowing down to the ground and accented with silver roses and thistle.

To add an interesting element a Strathmore family heirloom was incorporated into the dress design, perhaps this was Lady Elizabeth’s “something old”.  It was a historical piece of Brussels lace said to have come from an ancestor’s dress that had been worn on the occasion of a ball given in honor of Charles Stuart, otherwise known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie”.  Historical Note:  Charles Stuart, who was also known as the “Young Pretender”, led an unsuccessful insurrection to restore his family to the throne of Great Britain but his Jacobite challenge ended in his defeat at the Battle of Culloden effectively ending his claim.

To complete her wedding ensemble, Lady Elizabeth wore an antique ivory veil made of Flanders lace which she secured to her head with a wreath of myrtle leaves, white heather and white York roses; the veil was a gift from Queen Mary.  Finally, due to the inclement weather on the day of the wedding, the bride wore a fur coat trimmed with ermine as she walked a few short steps from her family home in London to climb into the waiting State landau to take her to Westminster Abbey.

Lady Elizabeth’s wedding bouquet

When looking at the formal wedding portraits taken at Buckingham Palace, it is noticeable that Lady Elizabeth is without her bridal bouquet and there is a very good reason for this omission.  The story goes that on the day of the wedding, as tradition usually dictates the bride and her father were the last to arrive at Westminster Abbey and they entered through the Great West Door.  As the bride, her father and her eight bridesmaids assembled for the processional there was a slight delay.  In those few minutes, to honor her brother Fergus who had died a few years earlier in World War I, Lady Elizabeth spontaneously laid her bridal bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Special Note:  Since 1923, Royal brides married at Westminster Abbey have also laid their bouquets on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the exception that instead of it being placed prior to the start of the ceremony, the bouquet is laid on the sacred spot afterwards.

Lady Elizabeth’s bridal bouquet left on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

In researching to find out additional information on Lady Elizabeth’s bridal bouquet, and because there are very few photographs of the bouquet, there has been speculation as to what types of flowers were used.  Some sources suggest that the bouquet was made of white roses, heather and myrtle but this has not been officially confirmed.

Lady Elizabeth’s bridal jewelry and additional wedding gifts

Lady Elizabeth engagement and wedding rings –

Upon her engagement, Prince Albert presented Lady Elizabeth with a platinum engagement ring with a large Kashmir sapphire that featured two diamonds on either side.  After the engagement, the people of Wales gave the Royal couple a large nugget of Welsh gold from which Lady Elizabeth’s wedding ring would be made.  Special Note: The same piece of Welsh gold has been traditionally used to make the wedding rings for several other British Royal brides; including the couple’s two daughters – Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) in 1947 and Princess Margaret in 1960.  Other wedding rings made from the original piece of Welsh gold have also included Princess Diana who married Prince Charles in 1981, Catherine Middleton who married Prince William in 2011 and most recently Meghan Markle who married Prince Harry in 2018.

Lady Elizabeth’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring

The Strathmore Rose Tiara –

The bride’s father, the Earl of Strathmore, gave Lady Elizabeth a beautiful floral tiara that was purchased as a wedding gift for the bride, the tiara dates back to the late nineteenth century.  The lovely design features a garland of diamond wild roses and leaves set in silver and gold.  Elements of the tiara can be dismantled and worn separately as brooches and at one time the five larger diamonds in the center of each flower could be replaced with sapphires to add variety when wearing the piece.

The Strathmore Rose tiara

At the time that Lady Elizabeth received the tiara in 1923, she wore the tiara across her forehead in the typical style of the period.  In later years, the Duchess wore the tiara in a more traditional manner set on the top of her head.  As the years passed the tiara fell out of favor with her and she did not wear it very often in public.  After her death in 2002, the tiara was passed to her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, and she has not worn it for any official royal engagements or State functions.

Lady Elizabeth wearing the Strathmore Rose Tiara
in a 1920s style across her forehead

The Lotus Flower Tiara –

Lady Elizabeth received a diamond and pearl necklace from her new husband, Prince Albert, as a wedding present.  She later decided that the necklace did not suit her personal style and she had the stones reset into a beautiful tiara.  Special Note: Throughout the years it has been very common in the royal family to alter or redesign pieces of jewelry to maximize the appearance of the precious stones.  Sometimes portions of a piece could be removed to wear separately, such as with the aforementioned Strathmore Rose tiara.  Other pieces could be altered with a slight adjustment to be worn in a different way, such as a necklace being converted into a tiara while still retaining the same basic design.  In this case the necklace Lady Elizabeth received from Prince Albert was completely disassembled and redesigned into an entirely different tiara setting.

After Lady Elizabeth’s necklace was redesigned and reset into a tiara in 1925, the frame featured a lotus motif, with diamond arches and two pearls on the base and a central pearl at the top.  The Duchess of York wore the tiara low across her forehead in the distinctive 1920s style, it was one of her favorite tiaras and she wore it frequently.  After her husband ascended to throne in December 1936 as King George VI and she became his Queen Consort as Queen Elizabeth she took to wearing more impressive crowns and tiaras as befit her new role and status.

The Duchess of York wearing the Lotus Tiara

After the short reign and subsequent death of King George Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (as she was would later become known as) passed the Lotus tiara down to her second daughter, Princess Margaret who wore it frequently.  In 1993, on the occasion of her son’s marriage (Viscount Linley), Princess Margaret loaned the tiara to Serena Stanhope, her new daughter-in-law.  After Princess Margaret’s death in 2002 the ownership of the Lotus tiara is unknown but it believed that it was passed onto one of her children.

A British Royal Wedding – Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles

Last month in the ongoing British Royal Wedding series I featured a post on the wedding of Princess Victoria, the daughter of Queen Victoria.  This month’s post will be about another daughter of a British Monarch, Princess Mary who was the daughter of King George V.  I will briefly discuss the courtship, engagement and wedding of Princess Mary and Viscount Henry Lascelles (later to become the Earl of Harewood).

Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary was born on April 25, 1897 at York Cottage on the Sandringham estate located in Norfolk, England.  Princess Mary (as she was known in the family) was the third child of King George V and Queen Mary; at the time of her birth her parents were then the Duke and Duchess of York.  She was their only daughter among her six brothers – Edward (the future King Edward VIII who abdicated in 1936), Albert (future King George VI), Henry, George and John (known as “the Lost Prince” died as a result of a severe epileptic seizure in 1919).

Princess Mary as a young girl

Princess Mary spent the majority of her privileged childhood years quietly on the Sandringham estate where her family lived a relatively “country” lifestyle despite the fact that her father was the heir to the British throne. Princess Mary’s father was a strict disciplinarian who was often absent due to his royal duties and her mother frequently accompanied her husband in his travels so as a result the Princess and her brothers were generally raised by a governess.

Duke and Duchess of York with their children
(Princess Mary is seen on the left)

Princess Mary at the time of her confirmation

In 1910, with the death of her grandfather King Edward VII, her father ascended to the British throne as King George V.  The Royal family would officially move from the simple and small York Cottage on the Sandringham estate to the grand and large Buckingham Palace in London.

During World War I Princess Mary and Queen Mary visited British soldiers in local hospitals.  Princess Mary had enrolled in a nursing course at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1918 and would eventually work a few days a week in the hospital’s Alexandra Ward named after her grandmother, Queen Alexandra.  The Princess also promoted the Land Girls which was an organization of women started in 1915 to provide manufacturing and agricultural labor in Britain necessitated by the absence of the men fighting in the war.   Princess Mary also actively supported the Girl Guides, a British organization started in 1910 similar to the American Girl Scouts, and she later became the honorary president of the association in 1920 and continued to hold that title for the rest of her life.

Princess Mary worked as a nurse at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London

While living in London, Princess Mary met Viscount Henry Lascelles at a dinner party when he was home on leave during the war.  The Viscount was the eldest son of the Earl and Countess of Harewood from Leeds, Yorkshire and he had served with distinction during World War I as a lieutenant colonel with the Grenadier Guards.  Princess Mary and Lord Lascelles met again at several country house parties in the months that followed, he was 38 years old and she was 23 at the time.  The seemingly unlikely couple had a lot in common and both enjoyed the sporting life with hunting, shooting and other activities common with the British upper class.

After a short time, Lord Lascelles was frequently spending time with the Royal family in London, at Balmoral in Scotland and it was while visiting the Sandringham estate that he proposed to Princess Mary.  The King gave his consent for the couple to be married and it was followed by the approval of the Privy Council which was required under the Royal Marriages Act 1772 for members of the British Royal Family. The engagement was officially announced by the Palace on November 22, 1921. 

Viscount Lascelles and Princess Mary at the time of the engagement

The Royal wedding of Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles took place on February 28, 1922 at Westminster Abbey in London, as customary the ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  There were eight bridesmaids – Princess Maud of Fife, Lady Rachel Cavendish, Lady Mary Thyne, Lady Victoria Cambridge, Lady Doris Lennox, Lady Diana Bridgeman, Lady May of Cambridge and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.  Special Note: The last bridesmaid mentioned, Lady Elizabeth, was destined to marry the bride’s brother, Prince Albert George a year later,  The couple would later become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and they are the parents of the current Queen Elizabeth II.

Viscount Lascelles and Princess Mary on their wedding day

Viscount Lascelles and Princess Mary
with the best man, Sir Victor Audley Mackenzie, and the eight bridesmaids

Viscount Lascelles and Princess Mary with the bride’s parents,
King George VI and Queen Mary

A precedence was set for future Royal weddings when the couple became the first to make an appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony as shown in the historical photograph below.  King George, Queen Mary and the Dowager Queen Alexandra, the bride’s grandmother, also joined the Royal couple on the balcony.  Sadly, a few years later the Dowager would become a recluse at her home in Sandringham as her health declined and she died in 1925.

from left to right –
King George, Princess Mary, Viscount Lascelles,
Dowager Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary

Following their appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony, there was a wedding breakfast for several hundred invited guests and the large four-tiered elaborately decorated wedding cake was reportedly cut with a sword.  After the wedding reception the couple left for their brief honeymoon in Paris, France and Florence, Italy.

The wedding cake of Viscount Lascelles and Princess Mary

When the couple returned to England they settled into Chesterfield House which was a grand townhouse that would be their London residence for the next nine years; it was bought by Lord Lascelles in 1919.  Later the couple moved to Goldsborough Hall located near Leeds in Yorkshire.

In the years following their marriage the couple had two sons, George born in 1923 and Gerald born in 1924.  Then in 1929 Lascalles’ father died and he became the 6th Earl of Harewood and Princess Mary became the Countess of Harewood and they would move permanently to Harewood House.  The large stately house has a lovely garden and grounds designed by the famous “Capability” Brown.  (Special Note: Today Harewood House, although still the home of the Lascelles family, is owned by the Harewood House Trust which offers tours of both the house and gardens.  For more information, regarding hours and fees, please click on the link to the website, www.harewood.org)

The Countess of Harewood with her two sons, George and Gerald

In addition to becoming the Countess of Harewood, Princess Mary became the Princess Royal in 1932, the title is customarily given to the eldest daughter of the British monarch.  Since there can be only one Princess Royal at a time, upon the death of her Aunt Princess Louise, the Duchess of Fife (the daughter of King Edward VII) the title was given to Princess Mary.  Special Note: Princess Louise in turn received the title in 1905 four years after the death of Princess Victoria, the Dowager German Empress and Queen of Prussia (the daughter of Queen Victoria).  The current Princess Royal is Princess Anne, who is the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, and she received the title in 1987 twenty-two years after the death of Princess Mary.

The year of 1936 would bring about drastic changes to the British Royal Family.  Upon the death of her father King George V, her favorite brother became King Edward VIII but before his coronation was held he abdicated and her other brother would become King George VI.  Shunned by the Royal Family, Edward went on to become the Duke of Windsor and in 1937 when he married Wallis Simpson in France and the Earl and Countess of Harewood would be the only members of the Royal Family to attend.  (Special Note: Still upset years later when the Duke of Windsor did not receive an invitation to the wedding of her niece Princess Elizabeth to Phillip Mountbatten in 1947, the Countess declined to attend in protest)

The Earl and Countess of Harewood

In May 1947 the Earl of Harewood died suddenly of a heart attack at Harewood House.  In the years that followed the Countess Harewood seemed to have reconciled with the other members of the Royal family and she did attended the coronation of her niece, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953.  In March 1965, the Princess Royal suffered a similar fate as that of her husband and she died suddenly of a heart attack at Harewood House.  After a private family funeral at the All Saints Church, which was attended by several members of the Royal Family including Queen Elizabeth II, she was buried alongside her husband.

A British Royal Wedding – Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick William

This blog has featured several British Royal Brides in recent months and this post will be about Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.   I will briefly discuss the courtship, engagement and wedding of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick William with details about her wedding dress and bridal accessories worn on her wedding day.

Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa was born on November 21, 1840 to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Buckingham Palace in London.  Although the Royal couple would have preferred their first born to be a boy, despite this fact Prince Albert was absolutely delighted with his daughter.  While she was still only one year old, the young Victoria was created the Princess Royal in 1841; the title is customarily given to the eldest daughter of the British sovereign.

Princess Victoria 1842 by Franz Winterhalter

Princess Victoria and her siblings received a proper education which was closely followed by their father and overseen by Baron Stockmar.  The Princess would prove to be an excellent student that thrived in her studies while her brother Prince Albert Edward, who was born a year after her, struggled with his lessons.  Throughout the years, Princess Victoria and her father shared a special bond enjoying common interests and later similar political views.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had carefully planned that their children would be joined in marriage into some of the most prominent European Royal families in the hopes of forming political alliances that would greatly benefit England.  The Queen and her husband had a long standing friendship with Prince William (later William I the King of Prussia and German Emperor) and his wife, Princess Augusta.  So to further strengthen the bond between England, Prussia and eventually a unified Germany it was decided that a marriage would be arranged between Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick, the eldest son of Prince William.

Princess Victoria 1851 by Franz Winterhalter

Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick would meet in London for the first time during the Great Exhibition of 1851, she was only 11 years old and he was nineteen.  The Princess made a great impression on the Prince who found her to be very mature and intelligent despite her young age and after returning to his homeland he began regularly writing letters to her.  Back in Prussia the idea of the Prince marrying the daughter of the Queen of England was met with much resistance and also great apprehension.  Then, in 1855 Prince Frederick planned a trip to see Princess Victoria again to make a final decision about a marriage.  He visited her in Balmoral Castle in Scotland and within a few days he was asking the Queen’s approval and also her permission before proposing to the Princess.  Several conditions had been set by the Queen, the first being that the marriage would not take place until the Princess was 17 years old and that the wedding would be in England not in Prussia.  Special Note: This last stipulation was an unusual request because customarily the wedding of an heir (Prince Frederick) would take place in his country and not the bride’s homeland.

Lithograph showing Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick (center)
and their parents – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (left) and
Princess Augusta and Prince William (later King of Prussia and German Emperor)

Once the engagement of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick was officially announced on May 17, 1856 there was general disapproval not only in Prussia but also in England.  The public was very critical of the Prussian neutrality during the Crimean War and also disapproved of the Prussian government association with Russia.  Meanwhile Prince Albert took the opportunity between the engagement and the wedding to prepare his daughter for her future life in Prussia.  He spent many hours teaching her his liberal ideals promoting a unified Germany but unfortunately this would ultimately cause the Princess immense problems later with the conservative government of Prussia.

The Marriage of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick painting by John Phillip
(Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their family are shown on the right in the painting)

The Royal wedding of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick took place on January 25, 1858 at the Chapel Royal in St. James Palace in London, England.  On the morning of the wedding thousands of people lined the procession route that led from Buckingham Palace to St James Palace to witness eighteen carriages which carried the Royal Family and other dignitaries plus hundreds of soldiers and horses.

The bride’s brothers rode in one carriage wearing Highland kilts while in another carriage her sisters were wearing pink satin and white lace dresses. In the final carriage Princess Victoria rode with her mother, Queen Victoria.  Arriving at St James Palace to a fanfare of trumpets and drums they were joined by the bride’s father, Prince Albert.  Then the wedding procession entered the Palace it included the bride’s brothers and sisters, the young bridesmaids, the bride’s grandmother and lastly the Queen.   The groom, Prince Frederick, stood at the railing near the front of the Chapel dressed in the dark blue tunic and white trousers of the Prussian Guard uniform; he also held a silver helmet in his hand. Finally, Princess Victoria walked into the Chapel accompanied by her father and her Great Uncle Leopold positioned on either side. (Special Note: Leopold, the King of Belgium, was the uncle to both the bride’s parents since the Queen and Prince Albert were first cousins).

Lithograph showing Queen Victoria and Princess Victoria
arriving at St James Palace for the wedding ceremony

After the wedding ceremony concluded the bride and groom walked out of the Chapel to a song which had been written in 1842 by the German composer, Felix Mendelssohn.  It was originally written to accompany the Shakespeare play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  Referred in the commemorative souvenir printed material at the time as the “Bride’s Song” it would be the first time that the song would be performed at a Royal Wedding.  (Special Note: As with most customs set during the Victorian Era, it proved to be very popular with the public for wedding ceremonies as a recessional song, it later became known as the “Wedding March”)

Shown above is a page from a special Royal Wedding printing
referring the Mendelssohn composition as “A Bride’s Song”

As tradition dictates, following the ceremony the wedding register was signed and a reception was held later at Buckingham Palace where a large and ornate wedding cake was cut and served to the invited guests.

Lithograph showing Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick
signing the marriage register after the wedding

Lithograph showing the wedding cake of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick

Princess Victoria’s wedding dress and accessories

When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she popularized the style of the white wedding dress and her daughter, Princess Victoria followed this new tradition.  A dress was specially created for the Royal Princess and was made of white silk moiré accented with three layers of Honiton lace; the lace featured a design incorporating roses, shamrocks and thistles which were symbols of England, Ireland and Scotland.   The dress had a rather long train that measured more than three yards and was trimmed with lace and satin ribbon.  Orange blossoms and sprigs of myrtle were used to decorate the bodice and the various tiers of the dress.  (Special Note: in the “language of flowers”, the orange blossom was used to represent purity and fertility while the myrtle was commonly used as a bridal flower in Germany, a sweet gesture to honor the groom)

A photograph of Princess Victoria’s wedding dress,
from www.royalcollection.org.uk

To complete Princess Victoria’s wedding ensemble a long Honiton lace veil was attached to her head with a wreath made of orange blossoms and myrtle.  She also wore a diamond necklace, earrings and a brooch.  (Special Note:  Queen Victoria was regally dressed for her daughter’s wedding and she wore a lilac silk moiré dress with a velvet train and she also wore a diamond crown with a royal diadem of diamonds and pearls)

A photograph of Princess Victoria’s wedding veil,
from www.royalcollection.org.uk

Princess Victoria’s wedding gifts

On the occasion of Princess Victoria’s wedding to Prince Frederick many wedding gifts were received and displayed in one of the State rooms at Buckingham Palace.  The items were labeled with a brief description and the name of the person presenting the wedding gift.  From the groom, Prince Frederick, the Princess Royal received a lovely diamond and turquoise necklace.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the bride’s parents, had given their daughter a necklace made of 36 large pearls and an opal and Diamond demi-parure which included a necklace, earrings and brooch.  The Queen also gave her a diamond brooch which could also be worn as a necklace pendant and Prince Albert gave her an emerald and diamond bracelet.  The groom’s parents, Prince William and Princess Augusta, gave her a wonderful diamond diadem (a coronet often worn as a symbol of sovereignty)

The lithograph shown above depicts the diamond and opal demi-parure which was a gift from the Princess Royal’s parents and also the diamond brooch from the Queen and emerald and diamond bracelet which was a gift from Prince Albert.

Many years after the wedding, in 1875 the Royal Princess Victoria now known as the Crown Princess of Germany, commissioned a special painting as a gift for her mother, Queen Victoria.  Shown below is the formal portrait by Heinrich von Angeli which is significant because she is wearing the Indian necklace that Queen Victoria had originally received from Queen Oude and then given to her daughter as a wedding gift.  (Special Note:The Crown Princess is also shown wearing the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert badge and the Order of Louise badge pinned to the left sleeve of her dress)

Formal portrait of the Crown Princess of Germany by Heinrich von Angeli
from www.royalcollection.org.uk

Despite the fact that the marriage of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick was basically an arranged marriage it had turned into a true love.  The Royal couple had eight children: Wilhelm (1859-1941), Charlotte (1860-1919), Heinrich (1862-1929), Sigismund (1864-1866), Viktoria (1866-1929), Waldemar (1868-1879), Sophia (1870-1932), Margaret (1872-1954).

Prince Frederick and Princess Victoria with five of their eight children

Frederick became the King of Prussia and German Emperor upon the death of his father in March 1888.  Sadly, Frederick III died on June 15 from cancer of the larynx only 99 days after his accession and was succeeded by his son, Wilhelm II.

After the death of her husband the Dowager Empress relocated to Friedrichshof, a castle she had built in Kronberg im Taunus located in Hesse, Germany.  There she lived a very isolated life until she died of breast cancer on August 5, 1901 only a few months after the death of her mother, Queen Victoria.  The Empress Dowager Victoria was laid to rest alongside her husband at Friedenskirche, the Royal mausoleum located in Postsdam, Germany.

Wedding Memorabilia Displays – ideas and suggestions

In this post I will give ideas and suggestions for displaying wedding memorabilia, items collected from your own wedding or perhaps a sentimental item inherited from a parent or grandparent wedding.  These items could include wedding stationary such as a wedding invitation, a ceremony program or a reception menu card.  Other items could be wedding clothing, such as a bridal gown or veil, a garter, a handkerchief or the bride’s custom shoes and the groom’s tie.  Floral items from the wedding day could be preserved and displayed, such as a bridal bouquet or a boutonniere worn by the groom.  Food items used on the wedding day can also be displayed, such as the toasting glasses, a wedding cake topper or a set of wedding cake knives.

For most wedding memorabilia displays a simple frame, a shadowbox or a cloche could be used, most craft or retail stores have a selection of various sizes and shapes available in glass or different types of wood and metal finishes.  For larger items perhaps a unique display case, such as a curio cabinet or a pedestal full length mirror, could be repurposed or altered.  There are also special archival boxes and tissue paper that can be purchased and then used to safely store a wedding gown.

Shown below are several ideas and suggestions for
containers that could be used for displaying wedding memorabilia:

Shown below are a few more unique containers
that could be used to display wedding memorabilia

a cake plate with glass dome could be used to display a pair of special bridal shoes

a lantern could be used to display a bridal bouquet,
a wedding cake topper or a set of toasting glasses

Shown below is a fun idea to display a bridal dress on a mannequin
and then placed in a corner curio cabinet with the glass shelves removed

Shown below are a few examples of wedding memorabilia displays

a bridal bouquet and a groom boutonniere in a shadowbox

a framed bridal bouquet

a wedding invitation with response card, envelope and special stamps

a set of toasting glasses, wedding invitation and a photo of the bridal couple

a bridal gown perserved in a special archival box

a unique idea to display a bridal dress in a pedestal mirror frame

a pair of special bridal shoes displayed under a glass dome

a framed cork from the champagne bottle used for the first toast
(this would make a great first anniversary gift for a bridal couple)

Shown below are several ideas for displaying
sentimental memorabilia inherited from a parent or grandparent wedding

a heirloom bridal veil and orange blossom wreath framed with a photo

a heirloom bridal purse and groom’s tie framed with a photo

a vintage bridal handkerchief

a vintage wedding cake topper

a vintage cake topper and a paper reception napkin

Historical Cameos

The idea for this post about historical cameos came from seeing photos of the Cameo Tiara worn by Victoria, the Crown Princess of Sweden on the occasion of her June 19, 2010 wedding to Daniel Westling (now known as Prince Daniel the Duke of Västergötland) at the Stockholm Cathedral.  The Cameo Tiara has a very interesting past as it was thought that Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France had originally commissioned it for his wife Josephine.

But first let’s discuss several other examples of historical cameos dating back to Ancient Egypt, Georgian and Victorian England.  The first example is one of the oldest and it is the Farnese Cup (or Tazza Farnese) an ancient Hellenistic bowl or cup made from a four-layered sardonyx agate and features relief carvings on both the interior and exterior surfaces.  The item purchased by Lorenzo de Medici during the Italian Renaissance features a blend of Ancient Egyptian and Roman images which possibly dates the piece to the 2nd century BC; it is now on display at the Naples National Archaeological Museum in Italy. 

Farnese Cup or Tazza Farnese in the Naples National Archaeological Museum
(view from the top looking into the piece to show the relief carvings)
photo from the Naples National Archaeological Museum

The next historical item is perhaps one of the best known cameo glass pieces and it is the Portland Vase which dates between AD I and AD 25, it is now on display in the British Museum in London, England.  The Roman cameo violet-blue glass vase with white colored relief carvings measures almost 10 inches in height and 22 inches in circumference at the widest part.  It features images of two different scenes depicting seven human figures with a large snake and two horned head figures found just below the handles on either side serving as a way to divide the two scenes of the vase.     

Portland Vase
photo from the British Museum

Throughout the years cameos were not only used for decorative pieces but often worn as jewelry by both men and women.  Cameos were popular during the early Renaissance in Europe and again in the 18th century in England during the reign of King George III and later by his granddaughter Queen Victoria during the 19th century. 

The next two examples of cameos feature images of members of the British Royalty; these items are now currently held in the Royal Trust Collection.  The first is an oval sardonyx (onyx with white layers and sard) cameo brooch which features a silver wreath of rose cut diamond laurel and palm leaves surmounted by a crown and the cameo features the profiles of four Kings of England; George I, II, III, IV.  The first King depicted on the brooch is George IV seen in profile with his three predecessors behind him; all are wearing a laurel wreath upon their heads and a cuirass (armor consisting of a breastplate).  Originally the piece was thought to have been used on the top of a snuff box which had been commissioned by King George IV, it was later sold and made into a brooch and presented to Princess May (later known as Queen Mary) in 1893 as a wedding gift from the Earl and Countess Cadogan.   

cameo brooch with the profiles of the four Kings of England – George I, II, III, IV
photo from the Royal Trust Collection

The next example of a cameo featuring the images of British Royalty was for the badge of the Royal Order of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  The British Royal Family Orders are customarily given by the British sovereign to the female members of the Royal Family and are considered a personal item rather than the state commemorative medals worn by the male members of the Royal Family.  Unlike the other previous Royal Family Orders issued by previous British Kings, the Order of Victoria & Albert was divided into four classes, the first being given to Queen Victoria’s daughters and later her daughters-in-law and grand-daughters with subsequent classes issued to other members of the Royal Family and the Royal Household including honored servants and couriers.  Special Note: For more information regarding the history of the British Royal Family Orders, please click on the link)

Shown below is the first class design given to Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Princess Victoria on the occasion of her confirmation.  The Order is decorated with a miniature ivory colored cameo portrait of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert set in brown onyx with a silver gilt frame accented with diamonds, rubies and emeralds with a diamond embellished crown at the top of the frame, the pendant was attached to a white silk bow.  The badges were commissioned by the Queen from the Royal Jeweler, Garrards in London, and the cameos by the Italian gemstone carver Tommaso Saulini.      

The Order of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
photo from the Royal Trust collection

Queen Victoria’s personal badge was unique in the fact that the heads of the cameo were reversed with Prince Albert in the front and the Queen shown behind in deference to her beloved husband.  Later the Queen bequeathed the badge to her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice and subsequently the Princess would give it to Queen Mary.

Queen Victoria wearing her personal badge with the profiles set in reverse order
with Prince Albert in the front and the Queen behind

Finally let’s discuss the Cameo Tiara and the impressive matching parure that is currently owned by the Royal Family of Sweden.  To start, as previously mentioned, the Cameo Tiara was thought to have been originally commissioned by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte for his wife Josephine along with a necklace, bracelet and a pair of earrings, a brooch was added later.  The journey of the tiara and parure started when it was inherited by Josephine’s son, Eugene de Beauharnais, and then by his daughter, Queen Josefina of Sweden and Norway. She bequeathed the cameos to her daughter, Princess Eugenie and finally the set came to Princess Sibylla, the mother of King Carl XVI Gustaf, as a wedding gift in 1932. 

Then a bridal tradition started when the sister of King Carl XVI Gustaf, Princess Birgitta wore in for her wedding in 1961 and another sister, Princess Desiree wore it on her wedding day in 1964.  Then in 1976 Silvia Sommerlath wore the Cameo Tiara when she married King Carl XVI and in the years that have followed Queen Silvia has also worn the tiara on several occasions most notably for the Nobel Prize ceremony and banquet. 

Queen Silvia wearing the Cameo tiara and the matching parure
at the Noble Prize ceremony and banquet

Thirty-four years later their eldest daughter, Victoria, the Crown Princess of Sweden wore the Cameo Tiara, earrings and bracelet on the occasion of her June 19, 2010 wedding to Daniel Westling (now known as Prince Daniel the Duke of Västergötland) at the Stockholm Cathedral. 

Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden wearing the Cameo Tiara on her wedding day

The Cameo Tiara features seven cameos; the base of the tiara is gold and the cameos are surrounded by seed pearls with additional seed pearls set in red gold that form anthemion designs.  the largest cameo in the center was made by Giuseppe Girometti and depicts Venus, the goddess of beauty and love, and her son, Cupid, the god of passion and desire.

the Cameo Tiara of Sweden

Now, let’s discuss the parure that matches the Cameo tiara.  The cameos of the parure depict profile portraits of mythological characters and were not originally intended to be used together in these pieces and this is why the cameos vary in shape and color.  Special Note:  The individual pieces of the parure are worn in various combinations most often by Queen Silvia but Princess Victoria has also wore pieces of the parure for special events.  Princess Madeleine (her parents are King Carl and Queen Silvia) wore the earrings and bracelet at the christening of her daughter, Princess Adrienne, in 2018.      

the cameo parure of Sweden shown in original case

The necklace (shown in the bottom of the case) features three cameos surrounded by diamonds and joined by three strands of pearls, originally it had four strands.   The bracelet (shown in the middle of the case) also features three cameos surrounded by diamonds and joined by four strands of pearls.  The cameo is the center of the bracelet depicts Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and justice wearing a helmet emblazoned with a horse.  The cameo on the right of the bracelet with the red tones depicts the messenger god Mercury.  The additional cameo to the left on the bracelet features another mytholical character facing in the opposite directions.  The brooch (shown at the top of the case) features a cameo depicting Napoleon Bonaparte that is surrounded by diamonds set in a scroll design.   

In regards to real-life weddings, here are a few cameo ideas and suggestions:

  • The gift of a cameo brooch or necklace would make a great gift for a bride to be given to her at her bridal shower or cameo necklaces for bridesmaid gifts given to them at the special luncheon before the wedding. 
  • A sentimental idea is that cameo jewelry would also make a thoughtful gift from the bridal couple to give to their mothers, perhaps to wear on the wedding day. 
  • Another idea is that a heirloom cameo brooch that once belonged to a grandmother could be a bride’s something old or a vintage cameo necklace from a mother could be used for something borrowed. 
  • A cameo brooch could also be attached to a bridal bouquet for a unique style. 
  • Another idea for a cameo-style decorative piece for a couple’s new home would be a carved seashell to remember a beach honeymoon.       

Grace Kelly Style

In this post, through photographs, we will follow the American actress Grace Kelly from the time of the engagement announcement to the wedding day when she married Prince Rainier in April 1956. (For more information on the fairytale wedding of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, please click on the link)

As today’s brides know there are numerous events leading up to the actual wedding day, such as the engagement party, bridal showers, bridesmaids’ luncheon and rehearsal dinner.  To help in selecting the various outfits needed, in this post I am going to discuss ideas and suggestions for dressing in the “Grace Kelly style”.       

The “Grace Kelly style” is best described as classic and effortlessly chic, it is timeless and the best part is that these items can be incorporated into any wardrobe for use after the wedding day.  Many of the luxury items that I will discuss later in the post, such as the Hermes bag, can be expensive and if cost is a factor a budget minded shopper can find numerous options available for purchase at a lower price but it is important to look for similar items that are well made in quality fabrics.

The brief courtship of Grace and Prince Rainier

In early 1955, while Grace Kelly was on a European tour to promote her latest film, “The Country Girl” her publicist arranged a photo shoot with the French magazine, Paris Match, and the location chosen was the Palace of Monaco where she would also meet Prince Rainier.  Unprepared for the photo shoot, Grace wore a black silk taffeta dress that featured a large flower print, a full skirt with a square neckline, long sleeves and a dropped waist tied with a sash.  Since she had missed her salon appointment that day, her usually perfectly coiffured hair was severely pulled back and secured with artificial flowers. Although she looked lovely, the garish dress was not one of her best looks!   

Paris Match magazine article featuring Grace Kelly
she is wearing that infamous black silk taffeta dress

Following their first meeting in May 1955, the two began writing each other letters and through their correspondence they got to know each other.  As the months passed the royal chaplain of Monaco thought that the Prince had possibly found a potential wife and encouraged the relationship. 

The engagement of Grace and Prince Rainier

Just before Christmas 1955, the Prince traveled to the United States to visit with Grace and the Kelly family in Philadelphia.  Ultimately the Prince proposed while the couple were in New York City for New Year’s Eve.  Grace’s engagement ring was from Cartier and featured a 10.47 carat emerald diamond in a platinum setting with smaller baguette diamonds on each side. Actually the ring was a second choice, the first ring which featured diamonds and rubies was not considered substantial enough for a future princess!

The engagement of Grace and the Prince was officially announced on January 5, 1956 at the Kelly home in Philadelphia with a press conference later that day at the Philadelphia County Club.  Prince Rainier wore a dark suit and Grace wore a Brannell of New York beige silk dress with a brocade dot pattern and it featured a button front, 3/4 length sleeves, a full skirt and belted at the waist. 

Grace and Prince Rainier at their engagement announcement

The next night the couple was scheduled to attend a society ball at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and after the engagement announcement the previous day Grace and the Prince were the center of attention at the ball.  The photo below shows the glamorous couple; Prince Rainier is wearing a black tuxedo with a white tie and Grace is wearing a white satin dress that featured a strapless fitted bodice with a full skirt, she is also wearing long white gloves and a pearl necklace and earrings, it seems that she is wearing a corsage of flowers pinned to the front of her dress.

Grace and Prince Rainer at a society ball in New York City
notice that the glamourous couple is wearing formal clothes for the evening event

Special Note: Engagement photos have become very popular in recent years as well as photos or videos of the proposal.  A newly engaged couple can pose for casual photos taken at a local park or beach or sometimes a couple will choose to have professional more formal photos taken at a studio.  This is a wonderful way to commemorate this special moment in their lives.     

Grace travels from New York to Monaco for the wedding

Shortly before the wedding to Prince Rainier, Grace boarded the USS Constitution ocean liner to travel from New York City to Monaco in April 1956.  She traveled with her her family, her bridesmaids, her French poodle Oliver and over eighty pieces of luggage!   

Special Note: For those nostalgic trivia buffs, the Constitution was the same ship featured in the “I Love Lucy” television series starring real-life couple Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in the 1956 episode “Bon Voyage” and also in the iconic 1957 film “An Affair to Remember” starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.  

Grace on board the USS Constitution leaving New York City
she is wearing a two piece suit with matching jacket and skirt, gloves and a hat

Grace relaxing on deck
she is wearing a sweater set, skirt, comfortable shoes and sunglasses
(although it may be a sunny day, on deck it can be breezy and chilly during a cruise!)

Grace wearing a life jacket for a safety drill
she is wearing a casual long sleeve shirt, pants, sunglasses and a scarf
(a scarf worn on deck can keep hair protected from the sun and ocean breezes)

Grace wearing a casual two-piece top and shorts set

After the eight day trans-Atlantic trip the USS Constitution made a special stop in Monaco for Grace and her family to disembark.  Because of the large size of the ship it was unable to dock and it stayed anchored in the harbor while Prince Rainier went out in a yacht to privately greet his fiancé and her family.  As Grace stepped ashore she was welcomed by over 20,000 locals and tourists. 

Grace with Prince Rainier arriving in Monaco after her trans-Atlantic trip
she is wearing a navy blue coat dress, gloves and wide-brimmed hat
(it has been noted that the people of Monaco were displeased
because the hat hid the beautiful face of their future princess)

Special Tip: Back in 1950s trans-Atlantic travel on board a luxury liner called for a very specific wardrobe requiring several changes of clothing for the various activities on board.  Today’s cruise vacations are much more casual in style and depending on the duration of the cruise a few coordinating shirts, shorts and pants could be worn for days at sea or when visiting the ports and maybe a few dresses for dinner in the evenings. 

Grace’s Wedding Dresses

For the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier there were two ceremonies, a required civil ceremony which took place in the throne room of the Monaco Palace on April 18, 1956 and then the religious ceremony which took place the next day on April 19 at the St. Nicholas Cathedral.  (For more detailed information on the wedding of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, please click on the link)

For the civil ceremony, Grace wore a pale pink taffeta with an overlay of cream colored Alencon lace designed with a fitted bodice, high collar and a flared skirt which she accessorized with gloves and a hat.  Prince Rainer wore striped trousers, a white vest and a black morning coat.

Prince Rainier and Princess Grace at the civil ceremony in the Monaco Palace
(this timeless dress would be appropriate for a modern bride
to wear for a small casual daytime wedding)

For the religious ceremony, Helen Rose, the movie costume designer who had worked with Grace on several of her films created a beautiful bridal dress.  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.  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 was structured underneath for support and two petticoats were also worn to provide fullness to the skirt.  As for the groom, Prince Rainier wore a Napoleonic styled military uniform which he personally designed. (For more information regarding Grace Kelly – An American Bride, please click on the link)

Prince Rainier and Princess Grace at the Monaco Palace on their wedding day
(this beautiful dress worn by Princess Grace on her wedding day
has become the inspiration for many modern brides, including Kate Middleton)

Special Note: Prince Rainier commissioned The House of Creed to create a special perfume, Fleurissimo, especially for Grace as a wedding present.  Fleurissimo was also a favorite perfume worn by another fashion icon, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  Selecting a personal perfume for a wedding day is a great idea for a modern bride and maybe it can become her “signature” scent!

Later that same night, the couple attended an elegant gala which was held in their honor at the Monaco Opera House.  Grace wore a lovely Lanvin gress made of white silk organdy with a deep v-neck, high waistline with a full bustle and it featured hand-embroidery and was decorated with pearls, rhinestones and sequins.

Prince Rainier and Princess Grace at the evening reception on their wedding day

Grace and Prince Rainier leaving on their honeymoon

For their honeymoon Prince Rainier and Grace boarded a yacht for a seven week Mediterranean cruise, the “Deo Juvante II” was a wedding present from Aristotle Onassis.  One of the stops during the trip was to Mallorca where the newlyweds stayed at the Hotel Formentor.    

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier leaving on their honeymoon
she is wearing a travel suit with jacket and matching shirt made by Edith Head,
white gloves and a hat

Special Note:  Back in those days a bride would change from her wedding dress into a “going away” outfit at the end on a reception.  The change of clothing was for the bride to wear something more suitable for travel to the honeymoon destination.  This trend is making a comeback for the modern bride and it’s a wonderful excuse for another fabulous outfit for the bride to wear on the wedding day!   

Princess Grace’s pearl and diamond parure

Grace often wore pearl jewelry in both her personal and professional life but the items I am going to discuss next were a wedding present from Prince Rainier.  He gave her a beautiful Van Cleef & Arpels parure that included a triple-strand pearl necklace with a diamond swirl motif, a triple-strand pearl bracelet with a diamond blossom motif, a set of pearl earrings accented with a baguette and marquise shaped diamond swirl and a diamond blossom ring with a pearl center. After these purchases by Prince Rainier, the French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels ended up being given the honor of the “Official Supplier to the Principality of Monaco.”

Princess Grace wearing the pearl and diamond jewelry parure
that were a wedding present from Prince Rainier

Special Note: A wedding gift, such as a necklace or charm bracelet, from the groom is a thoughtful way to commemorate the marriage and it could be a wonderful gift for the bride to wear for many years to come and perhaps to pass on to a future daughter as a sentimental heirloom!   

An iconic handbag and another beautiful dress

I wanted to include the next two items because both are iconic “Grace Kelly style ” although they are not directly associated with the wedding. The first is a favorite handbag that Grace frequently used and the second is another fabulous dress which was worn by Grace to the 1955 Academy Awards ceremony.

The Hermes “Kelly” bag

For the 1955 film “To Catch a Thief”, which starred Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, the MGM costume designer Edith Head and Grace choose a classic Hermes handbag known as the sac à dépêches.  A long held rumor was that when Grace was photographed carrying that bag soon after the wedding it was reported that it was strategically placed in front to hide her pregnancy.  

Princess Grace with her Hermes bag

Special Notes:  It was not until 1977 that the name of the Hermes bag that Grace favored was renamed the “Kelly” bag.  Every Hermes Kelly bag is handmade by expert craftsmen and it takes about 25 hours to create each individual bag.  What make the Hermes “Kelly” bag different from the look alike Birkin bag that came later is that the Hermes has a single handle and it smaller in size while the Birkin has two handles and is larger and slightly wider, both have detachable shoulder straps. 

1955 Oscar dress

Perhaps one of the most iconic dresses worn to the Academy Awards ceremonies was the dress designed by Edith Head for Grace Kelly.  The dress was worn for the 1955 Academy Awards at which Grace won the Best Actress Oscar for her work in The Country Girl movie.  The beautiful silk dress featured a long column skirt with draping at the waist, a fitted bodice and two thin straps at each shoulder with a separate small train gathered in the back.  The color has been reported as ice blue or mint green but it was delightfully described by Edith Head as a “blue champagne” color (that sounds very sophisticated!)

The iconic Edith Head designer dress worn by Grace

Grace on the cover of Life magazine – April 11, 1955

Grace accepting her Best Actress Oscar for “The Country Girl” at the 1955 Academy Awards

Special Note: Grace actually wore the dress on three different occasions; for the 1954 movie premiere of “The Country Girl” in New York City, for the photo shoot for the April 11, 1955 cover of Life magazine and for the 1955 Academy Awards Ceremony. 

It has been said that Grace was surprisingly frugal and often wore clothing from her personal wardrobe more than once.  This brings up the point about purchasing luxury clothing and accessories, if you select clothes well-made in quality fabrics they can be worn for several years.   

Special Note: For more information regarding the movie costumes designed for Grace by Helen Rose and Edith Head, please click on the links.

Edith Head – An American Movie Costume Designer

In this blog’s ongoing series on fashion and costume designers, this post will discuss the career of Edith Head who was an American costume designer at Paramount Studios and later Universal Studios.  She created movie costumes for some of the most glamorous film stars, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.

Special Note: In keeping with the theme of An Elegant Bride blog, the classic Edith Head movie costume designs detailed in this post would be a great inspiration for a classic wedding style for either a bride and/or bridesmaid dresses.

A brief history of the life and career of Edith Head

Edith Posener was born on October 28, 1897, her parents were Max Posener and Anna Levy.  Her parents divorced when Edith was a child and in 1905 her mother was remarried to a man named Frank Spare and the family moved often, although her parents were both Jewish her stepfather was Catholic and she converted to his faith.

Edith attended the University of California Berkeley and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1919 and then a Master of Arts degree from Stanford University in 1920.  After college she moved to La Jolla, CA and took a teaching position at the Bishop’s School teaching French and a year later she moved to Hollywood, CA to at the Hollywood School for Girls.  Unhappy with just teaching language Edith was looking to increase her salary and she had always been interested in fashion design so she enrolled at the Chouinard Art College.

Edith meet the brother of one of her Chouinard classmates, a man named Charles Head, and they were married on July 25, 1923 (they later divorce in 1938 after a long separation).  At the time of her marriage Edith was hired as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures where she would continue to work there for the next 44 years.  Although she and Charles were divorced and she had remarried an art director named Wiard Ihnen in 1940 she would continue to be known professionally as Edith Head throughout her career. 

Eventually Edith would go onto have a very successful career at Paramount as a movie costume designer and then later at Universal Pictures, she moved to Universal in 1967 when Paramount declined to renew her contract.  During her time at the studios she designed for Mae West in the 1933 film She Done Him Wrong (which co-starred a young Cary Grant), she designed the famous sarong for Dorothy Lamour in the 1936 film The Jungle Princess, Barbara Stanwyck in 1944 film Double Indemnity, Bette Davis in 1950 film All About Eve (for which Edith won the Academy Award for Costume Design) and Gloria Swanson in 1950 film Sunset Boulevard.  Among her career accomplishments she won 8 Oscars and received 35 Academy Awards nominations.   

Edith also had two books published, the 1959 book The Dress Doctor and the 1967 book How to Dress For Success, in which she discussed her career and also her design and fashion style.  She also designed the uniforms for the women of the United States Coast Guard for which she received the Meritorious Public Service Award.  In 1974, Edith received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in the entertainment industry. 

Edith’s second husband, Wiard, died in 1979 from prostate cancer.  Two years later Edith died on October 24, 2982 for myelofibrosis which is an incurable bone marrow disease, she is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.   

Movie Costumes designed by Edith Head

Edith Head is perhaps best known for the work she did for three of Hollywood’s most beautiful and glamorous women – Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.  In this post, I will concentrate on movie costumes that she designed for these actresses during the 1950s to the 1960s. 

Elizabeth Taylor

The first iconic movie costume I will discuss is a dress Edith Head designed for a young Elizabeth Taylor for the 1951 film A Place in the Sun starring opposite Montgomery Clift.  At this time Elizabeth was best known as a child actress and it would be one of her first more mature roles.  In the film she played a beautiful society debutante and the wardrobe that Edith designed for Elizabeth would reflect a more sophisticated style, Edith would win the Academy Award in Costume Design for this black and white film. 

One of the costumes Edith designed was a strapless dress that featured a fitted boned bodice covered with velvet flowers and the skirt had several layers of sheer tulle over a pastel taffeta underskirt, floral embellishments also cascaded down the front of the skirt.  The dress accented Elizabeth’s tiny waist while the bust line was definitely enhanced by the floral fabric design.  The dress caused a sensation across the country and became so popular with young women that it was copied and sold in stores for proms throughout the 1950s.

Elizabeth Taylor with Montgomery Cliff in a scene from A Place in the Sun

dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun

Audrey Hepburn

Another beautiful actress that Edith designed movie costumes for was Audrey Hepburn.  Audrey’s slim figure proved to be a challenge for Edith especially after working with such voluptuous actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor. 

Roman Holiday

The 1953 film Roman Holiday would be the first of several films in which Edith designed movie costumes for Audrey Hepburn.  In this film Audrey plays a princess visiting Rome who decides to escape the tedium and boredom of her royal duties to explore the city where she meets an American reporter, played by Gregory Peck.  The film would catapult Audrey to stardom and she would win the Best Actress Academy Award for Roman Holiday and Edith would win the Academy Award for Best Costume Design for this black and white film.

At the start of the film we see Audrey’s character wearing the quintessential princess dress which Edith designed.  The off the shoulder formal dress featured a floor length full skirt, beaded shawl collar and fitted bodice worn with a royal satin sash and jeweled royal orders; she is also wearing long white gloves, a diamond tiara, necklace and earrings. 

Audrey Hepburn in a scene from Roman Holiday as Princess Ann

Princess Ann dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday
photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Special Note:  Although Edith won the Oscar for her work in this film the iconic shirt, blouse and belt worn in the scenes when Audrey’s character explores Rome were actually from the Capri collection by European fashion designer Sonja de Lennart.  This practice of a movie costume designer taking credit from another person’s work would cause controversy for Edith in another movie she did with Audrey.   

Sabrina – 1954

The next film that Edith worked with Audrey was the 1954 Sabrina, much has been written about the costumes for this movie and I will highlight one of the most famous dresses.  In the film Audrey plays, Sabrina, the daughter of the chauffeur for a wealthy family.  Sabrina is secretly in love with the youngest son, David who is played by William Holden and Humphrey Bogart plays the older brother.  On the pretense of attending the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, she is sent away to Paris leaving as a young naïve girl but returning a year later as a more mature and very well-dressed woman.    

After her arrival back home she finally catches the notice of David and is invited to a party that evening at the house.  She makes a dramatic entrance looking very sophisticated in a stunning dress made by Edith but designed by Hubert de Givenchy.   The white strapless organza gown with black floral embroidery features a slim column dress with a separate and matching overskirt that had a black band of fabric at the bottom, she also wears long white gloves.       

Audrey Hepburn and Bill Holden in a promotional photo for Sabrina

evening gown worn by Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina

Special Note:  As previously mentioned, Edith sometimes took credit for another person’s work and in this case the other fashion designer was a young Hubert de Givenchy.  Despite the fact that Givenchy designs were featured in the film Edith was given full screen credit. She won the Academy Award for Costume Design for Sabrina and never acknowledged Givenchy contribution.  Later, to sidestep this controversy, the studio stated that regardless of the fact that it was Givenchy designs, because the dresses were made at the studios under the supervision of Edith that she had the right.    

For information about the costumes of another Audrey Hepburn movie, please click on the link to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.              

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly was another beautiful actress that Edith worked with on four of her films, Rear Window was the first Alfred Hitchcock film they worked together on which was followed by the film To Catch a Thief.  Grace had the style that could only be described as elegant and chic which made dressing her for films a dream as you can see in the two movie costume dresses that I will discuss next.   

Rear Window

The 1954 film Rear Window is a mystery thriller and is often considered one of Hitchcock’s best films.  In the movie a photojournalist, played by James Stewart, is recovering from a broken leg and confined to a wheelchair.  While in his apartment with a view of the courtyard and building across the way he witnesses what is thinks is a crime and he shares this information with his girlfriend, played by Grace Kelly.    

Edith had previously worked with Grace on the film Country Girl which called for the character to wear dowdy clothes but now for Rear Window Edith would design six stylish and sophisticated outfits for Grace who was playing a high fashion model.  The dress worn when Grace makes her first appearance in the film is a considered a timeless classic.  Edith designed a stunning dress which featured a black fitted bodice with a deep V neckline and a full white chiffon skirt accented with a black floral pattern, she is also wearing bright red lips, perfectly styled hair, a pearl necklace and bracelet, white gloves, black strappy shoes and white chiffon shawl when she enters the apartment for the first time.

Grace Kelly and James Stewart in a scene from the Rear Window

Grace Kelly in a promotional photo for Rear Window

To Catch a Thief

The second film that Edith worked with Hitchcock and Grace was for the 1955 film To Catch a Thief, it would be one of Grace’s last films as she was soon to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco and give up her acting career.   

To Catch a Thief is a romantic thriller in which a retired jewel thief, played by Cary Grant, is suspected in several burglaries on the French Rivera and to prove his innocence he decides to catch the real thief.  He meets the beautiful daughter of a wealthy American oil heiress, played by Grace, and they work together to set a trap.

Since the film is set on the French Rivera, Edith designed a wonderful resort wardrobe for Grace’s character and the first dress she wears in the film is an absolute enchanting dress!  Edith designed a flowing Grecian style dress made in two lovely shades of blue chiffon with thin straps, a draped bodice and a matching chiffon shawl that she casually drapes over one shoulder.     

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in a scene from the film To Catch a Thief

Grace Kelly in a promotional photo for the To Catch a Thief film

For information about another Edith Head dress designed for Grace Kelly for the 1955 Academy Awards, please click on the link to Grace Kelly Style.

Wedding Reception – Table Numbers

In general, table numbers are used in coordination with the guest escort cards that indicate the table assignments at a wedding reception.   Table numbers can be a creative way for the bridal couple to express the theme and colors of a wedding and in this post I will discuss several different ideas, including both formal elegant styles to informal whimsical styles.

In addition, table numbers can be used in a variety of different ways to make it easier for guests to find their seats at a wedding reception.  One way is to consider the size of the numbers and the basic idea would be to make the numbers visible for the guests to see without being so large that they distract from the wedding reception style, I think numbers not more than six inches in height is a good size. Another idea is to arrange the tables with even numbers on one side of the room and the odd numbers on the other side.    

Shown below are several examples of table numbers in a formal and elegant style.

a simple gold table number on a base

with the vast selection of frames available at retail stores and online for purchase,
a style or type of frame can be found for any color scheme of a wedding reception

shown below is a silver frame with table number

an elegant pearl frame with table number

a crystal frame with table number

a floral table number printed on heavy cardstock

a table number on a simple white candle

a table number used with a lantern

Depending on the size of the wedding reception and how many guest tables are required, the next examples use items that can be family heirlooms or
vintage finds from an antique store.

a beautiful china teapot with a floral arrangement and used with a table number

a china plate on a stand with a table number

a vintage clock set to the “time” of the table number (in this example for table one)

an antique mirror with the table number

Shown below are several examples of ideas for table numbers for a theme wedding used in an informal and whimsical style sometimes using quirky items.

a seashell or a piece of coral with a table number
(keep in mind that most decorative pieces of coral are now artificially produced)

a boat with table number can be an idea for a nautical theme wedding

a wine or champagne bottle with a table number attached
would be a great idea for a wedding held at a winery or vineyard
(note that the bottle can be opened for use at the wedding reception)

a horseshoe attached to a piece of wood with a wired table number
can be used for a rustic country themed wedding held in a barn

a cowbell with the table number for a farm themed wedding
(can be “rung” in the tradition that the bride and groom kiss!)

a moss covered table number would be a great idea for a garden themed wedding

a piece of wood with the table number could be used for
an enchanted forest theme wedding

a book with a table number could be used for a wedding held in a historic library

The next examples use organic items but don’t necessarily have a particular wedding theme

a piece of agate with the table number

a ceramic tile with the table number

a vintage door knob attached to a piece of wood with the table number

Finally here a some additional ideas for table numbers

  1.  A cute idea for table numbers is to include photos of the bride and groom at that particular age, an example for table one would use photos of the bridal couple at the age of one year old. 
  2. Another idea for a system of identification to determine the tables is to use words instead of numbers.  An example would be to use words can be the name of cities that hold special meaning to the bridal couple, maybe places they visited of their vacations. 

Wedding Gemstones – Sapphire

In the ongoing series about gemstones, this post will be about the sapphire which is a type of mineral corundum consisting of aluminium oxide.  The precious gemstone is typically blue in color but a rare type, known as a padparadscha sapphire, is pink-orange in color.  The sapphire is the birthstone of the month of September.  The gemstone has come to symbolize nobility, truth and fidelity and it is believed that the sapphire brings the wearer wealth and protection from envy. 

In this post, I will discuss eight famous sapphires including those of royalty, such as the engagement ring of Josephine Bonaparte the wife of Emperor Napoleon, a tiara and brooch worn by Queen Victoria and the engagement ring of Princess Diana which is now worn by Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge.

Star of Bombay Sapphire

The Star of Bombay is a 182 carat cabochon star sapphire from Sri Lanka, it is violet-blue in color caused by the presence of titanium and iron which give it the blue color and vanadium which gives it a violet back color.  The Star of Bombay would eventually be purchased by the famous silent film star Douglas Fairbanks as a present for his wife and actress Mary Pickford.  After her death in 1979, the gemstone was donated to the Smithsonian Institution and is currently on display at the National Museum of Natural History located in Washington D.C. and can be seen in the Hall of Gems and Minerals.

Star of Bombay Sapphire

Logan Sapphire

The Logan Sapphire is another sapphire originating from a mine in Sri Lanka; it is medium blue in color with excellent clarity and measures 423 carats.  The sapphire was first owned by a maharajah in India and then Sir Ellice Victor Sassoon, the third Baronet of Bombay.  Then in 1952, Col. M. Robert Guggenheim purchased the sapphire as a gift for his wife, Rebecca.  After Mr. Guggenheim’s death in 1959 the decision was made to donate the sapphire to the Smithsonian Institute.  Meanwhile, when Rebecca remarried in 1962 to John Logan the gemstone then became known as the Logan Sapphire.  In 1971 the sapphire was finally given to the Smithsonian mounted in a silver and gold brooch setting which is framed by twenty round brilliant cut diamonds totaling approximately 16 carats.  Considered the heaviest set gemstone in the collection, it is currently on display at the National Museum of Natural History located in Washington D.C.

Logan Sapphire

Heart of the Ocean necklace from the Titanic movie

The next sapphire I will discuss was a stunning necklace known as the Heart of the Ocean from the 1997 movie “Titanic” and I am mentioning it in this post because it is one of the most famous sapphires in recent times.  In the movie the character of Rose is given the necklace by her fiancé but it was thought that the necklace was lost when the Titanic sank.  Later in the movie it is revealed that Rose had found the necklace in the pocket of the coat she was wearing when she was rescued.  Special Note: I won’t give away the story of what happened in the end to the Heart of the Ocean necklace and you will just have to watch the movie!

The Heart of the Ocean necklace in the movie was supposed to be a 171 carat heart-shaped Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 103 diamonds and set in platinum.  In fact, the prop necklace was made by Asprey & Garrard and features a large blue cubic zirconia to simulate the sapphire and clear cubic zirconia to simulate the diamonds set in white gold.    

After the success of the Titanic film, the Asprey & Garrard Jewelers created a replica of the Heart of the Ocean necklace made with a 171 carat sapphire shaped in a heart surrounded by 103 diamonds set in platinum.  It was donated to Sotheby’s for an auction with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.  This version of the Heart of the Ocean necklace was eventually donated to the Shipwreck Treasure Museum located in Charleston, Cornwall in England where it can be currently seen on display. 

Heart of the Ocean necklace

Heart of the Ocean necklace worn by Kate Winslet in the Titanic movie
(for more information about the Titanic movie costumes, please click on the link)

Special Note:  The international renowned singer Celine Dion, who performs the Titanic movie theme song “My Heart Will Go On”, wore the replica of the Heart of the Ocean necklace when she attended the 1998 Academy Awards ceremony; the song won the Oscar for Best Original Song that year. 

Napoléon’s Engagement Ring for Joséphine

The next sapphire I will discuss in this post is the first of two royal engagement rings on my list of famous sapphires.  At the time of their meeting in 1795, Napoleon Bonaparte was engaged to another woman but quickly became smitten with Josephine de Beauharnais who was previously married and a recent widow.  Napoleon proposed to Josephine giving her a romantic sapphire and diamond toi et moi ring (meaning “you and me” in French and refers to a ring set with two gemstones side by side symbolizing two souls becoming one), the two pear-shaped stones each weighed just under one carat.  The couple married in 1796, but their relationship eventually faltered when both were unfaithful and, after Napoleon became emperor, Josephine’s failure to provide him with an heir and they would divorce 1810.

The engagement ring remained within the Bonaparte family for several generations until 2013 when Osenat, a French auction house, sold it as part of the possessions belonging to Victor, Prince Napoleon (the grandson of Napoleon’s brother, Jerome Bonaparte) and his wife, Princess Clementine of Belgium.  In the end, the ring sold for almost $950,000 which was far above the estimated price perhaps due to the historical connection with the French Nobility. 

Josephine Bonaparte engagement ring
photo from the Osenat Auction

Stuart Sapphire

The Stuart Sapphire historically has an uncertain past, it is thought to have been originally owned by King Charles II of England and when his King James VII fled to France it is believed that he took the gemstone.  The large sapphire was inherited by his son, James Stuart and then went to his son, Henry Benedict who wore it in his mitre as Cardinal York.  The sapphire was eventually purchased by King George III in 1807 and set into the Imperial State Crown which would later be worn in an altered version by Queen Victoria for her coronation in 1838. 

The Stuart Sapphire weighs 104 carats and is slightly oval in shape measuring approximately 1.5 inches long and 1 inch wide.  It was originally set in the front of the Imperial State Crown until the acquisition of the Cullinan II diamond and then the Stuart Sapphire was moved to the back for the 1937 coronation of King George VI.  This is version of the Imperial State Crown which was slightly altered for the current Queen Elizabeth II, she wore the crown when leaving Westminster Abbey on her coronation day in 1953 and will traditionally wear the Imperial State Crown at the State Opening of Parliament.  Special Note:  When not in use, the Imperial State Crown is on display at the Tower of London with the impression collection of the Crown Jewels.   

Stuart Sapphire set in back and at the bottom of the Imperial State Crown

the Stuart Sapphire

Princess Diana / Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge engagement ring

The second engagement ring on my list of famous sapphires was worn by two British Royal brides.  On February 24, 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer appeared at Buckingham Palace to officially announce their engagement.  Diana’s engagement ring was made by the Crown jewelers Garrard and featured a 12 carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire that was encircled by 14 diamonds and set in 18 carat white gold.  Prince Charles and Diana were married on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England.  Special Note: Unfortunately the couple separated in 1992 with the divorce finalized in 1996, sadly Princess Diana died in a tragic car accident in Paris in 1997.     

Almost thirty years later, on November 16, 2010 Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.  In a very sentimental gesture, Prince William proposed with the sapphire and diamond engagement ring that had once belonged to his mother, Princess Diana.  Prince William and Catherine were married on April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey in London, England.

sapphire and diamond engagement ring worn by
Princess Diana and later Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge

For more information about the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana or the wedding of Prince William and Catherine, please click on the links.

For additional information about other British Royal engagement rings, please click on the links to Part One and Part Two.

Prince Albert Sapphire Brooch

Prince Albert commissioned a brooch as a wedding present for Queen Victoria which she wore on the bodice of her bridal dress on the day of their wedding.  The ceremony took place on February 10, 1840 at the Chapel Royal in St. James Palace.  The stunning brooch became known as the Prince Albert Sapphire Brooch and it featured a large oblong sapphire (the size has never been revealed to the public) set in gold and surrounded by 12 round diamonds.  It was a treasured gift from her beloved husband and Queen Victoria wore it frequently until Prince Albert’s death in1861.   

Prince Albert Sapphire Brooch

Queen Victoria wearing the Prince Albert brooch on the bodice of her dress
Franz Winterhalter painting from the Royal Collection

After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Prince Albert Sapphire Brooch remained within the British Royal Collection and has been worn throughout the following years by Queen Alexandra (she wore the brooch for her husband, King Edward VII, coronation day in 1902), Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II.  The Prince Albert Sapphire Brooch is a favorite of the current Queen and she will usually wear it on her left shoulder to compliment a blue dress.  Most notably she wore it for a dinner with President and Mrs. Kennedy in 1961 and the christening of her grandson Prince William in 1982.   

Queen Elizabeth wearing the Prince of Albert brooch

Queen Victoria diamond and sapphire tiara

Prince Albert commissioned jeweler Joseph Kitching and personally designed a sapphire and diamond tiara to match the wedding brooch he had given Queen Victoria in 1840.  The tiara is mounted with diamonds set in silver and features 11 sapphires set in gold, the piece is engineered to be fully adjustable to accommodate a closed coronet style or an open style to be worn as a tiara. 

Queen Victoria diamond and sapphire coronet/tiara

The first photo shown below is of a young Queen Victoria wearing the piece on the back of her head as a coronet for a portrait by Franz Winterhalter in 1842.  The second photo shown below is of an older Queen Victoria wearing the piece as a tiara on the top of her head for a portrait by Henry Graves in1874.

a young Queen Victoria wearing the sapphire and diamond piece as a coronet
Franz Winterhalter painting from the Royal Collection Trust

an older Queen Victoria
wearing the sapphire and diamond piece as a tiara on the top of her head
Henry Graves painting from the Royal Collection Trust

After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the sapphire and diamond coronet/tiara was inherited by Queen Alexandra.  Then, through the next years the piece was inherited by several members of the British Royal family, it went to Queen Mary and in 1922 it was given to her daughter, Princess Mary upon her marriage to Henry Lascelles, Earl of Harewood.  The piece was then inherited by her son George Lascelles the 7th Earl of Harewood in 1965 and then his son David Lascelles, the 8th Earl of Harewood in 2011. 

In 2016, a London Jewelry dealer had attempted to sell the sapphire and diamond coronet/tiara to a foreign buyer.  When this was brought to the attention of the United Kingdom Culture Minister the sale was stopped and a temporary export ban was put upon this important historical British Royal piece to prevent it from leaving the country. 

As it was hoped, a private buyer, William and Judith Bollinger, purchased the piece in 2017 and it was promptly donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.  In 2019, upon the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the piece was put on permanent display in the museum as the centerpiece of the new Bollinger Gallery.       

So, this ends the post regarding my list of the eight most famous sapphires.  As a special note, a piece of sapphire jewelry would make a very meaningful gift for a September born bride or a bride marrying in the month of September. 

Russian Imperial Nuptial Jewels


In this post I will discuss the Russian Nuptial Jewels worn by several of the Russian Imperial brides throughout the centuries and which have traditionally included the Russian Nuptial Tiara and Crown, also the Russian Nuptial Necklace and Earrings and the large Russian Nuptial Brooch that was used to fasten the ermine robes worn by the bride at the wedding ceremony.

Russian Nuptial Tiara

The Russian Nuptial Tiara has been worn by several Russian Imperial brides, including tsarinas and grand duchesses throughout the centuries.  The large diamond tiara was created around 1800 by Jacob David Duval, a St. Petersburg jeweler, for Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna.  The largest stone set in the center of the lower portion of the tiara is a remarkable 13 carat pink diamond; in addition there is a row of briolette diamonds topped by diamond uprights.  Surprisingly, the tiara survived the Russian Revolution and is now displayed at the Kremlin Armory in Moscow.

Russian Nuptial Crown

As part of the Eastern Orthodox Holy Matrimony, not only are rings exchanged as part of the ceremony, but crowns are also placed on the heads of both the bride and groom.  The Russian Nuptial Crown was made around 1844, possibly by Nichols and Plincke jewelers.  There are 320 large diamonds weighing approximately 182 carats and 1,200 smaller diamonds totaling 80 carats; it is thought that most of the diamonds were previously used to embellish the clothing of Catherine II.  The diamonds are set in silver and mounted onto a crimson red velvet crown.  At a specific point in the wedding ceremony, the Nuptial Crown is placed behind the Nuptial Tiara.

Records indicate that the Nuptial Crown was sold by Christie’s Auction House in 1927.  It was acquired by Marjorie Merriweather Post, an American businesswoman and heiress of the Post Cereal Company which she expanded into General Foods.  In the 1930s, when her husband was the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union she continued collecting Imperial art and artifacts and eventually her collections was given to the Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C.

Shown above is a small portion of the Laurits Tuxen painting which depicts the 1894 wedding of Emperor Nicholas II and Princess Alexandra, the princess is seen wearing both the Russian Nuptial Tiara and Crown.

Russian Rivère Diamond Necklace and Earrings

In addition to the Russian Imperial Tiara and Crown, the Romanov brides would wear other stunning diamond jewelry.  The Russian Rivère Diamond Necklace was a set of large diamonds and pear-shaped diamond drops that weighed a total of 475 carats; the necklace was once part of the Russian Imperial Crown Jewels.  During the time of the Russian Revolution the necklace was sold to an unknown buyer and has since mysteriously disappeared.  The matching earrings were originally commissioned by Catherine II, the large Brazilian diamonds are set in gold and silver and styled to resemble cherries and stems.  The earrings are so heavy to wear that a special support wire was fashioned to be wrapped behind and over the ears.


Imperial Mantle Clasp

Over the wedding gown, the bride would wear the Imperial Mantle made of embroidered golden fabric edged with ermine; the mantle was also worn for coronations.  To fasten the mantle a magnificent clasp was set with diamonds of various sizes and shapes, it measured approximately 8 inches across.

Special Note: Portions of this post were originally published on my other blog, theenchantedmanor.com.  If interested in more information regarding other Romanov Jewels, please click on two additional posts about the House of Fabergé and Fabergé Eggs.  The first post gives a brief history of the Fabergé Company started by Peter Carl Fabergé.  The second post gives information about the beautiful jeweled 54 Imperial Eggs that Fabergé created for the Russian Tsar Alexander III and later his son Tsar Nicholas II between 1885 and 1917.