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.

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,  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.

Movie Costumes – Ever After

In the ongoing series regarding movie costumes, this post will be about the 1998 Ever After movie costumes.  Danielle’s mother’s gown that she wears to the ball is absolutely beautiful and would be a great inspiration for a bridal gown, of course minus the wings!  But before I go into any details about the dress I will briefly discuss some information regarding the movie. 

Based on the Cinderella fairy tale, Ever After is a romantic drama set in 16th century France.  The movie starts with the Brothers Grimm being summoned by the home of the Grande Dame (played by Jeanne Moreau) to discuss their version of “The Little Cinder Girl” story.  Placed in the room in which they are meeting there is a painting of a young girl which was painted by famous artist Leonardo de Vinci and she explains that the girl is her great-great grandmother who was the real Cinder Girl. 

Special Note: The painting of Danielle is based on a real unfinished painting by Leonard de Vinci called “La Scapigliata” dating to around 1508. 

To prove that her story is true, she shows them the “glass slipper” as she starts to tell about Danielle de Barbarac (played by Drew Barrymore) and how she came to marry Prince Henry (played by Dougray Scott).

Grande Dame (played by Jeanne Moreau)

Danielle’s wealthy father had died shortly after he had married the Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent (played by Anjelica Huston) who comes to live with them bringing her two daughters, Marguerite and Jacqueline.  Ten years after her father’s death, Danielle has been forced to be a servant within her own home; meanwhile Rodmilla has secretly been selling the house’s priceless treasures to pay off the high debt incurred from her and her daughters’ lavish lifestyle.

Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent (played by Anjelica Huston)

the stepsisters – Marguerite and Jacqueline
(played by Megan Dodds and Melanie Lynskey)

Through a chance encounter Danielle meets Prince Henry, he is stealing a horse from her home and he callously tosses coins at Danielle to settle the matter before riding off!  They meet again when Danielle is posing as a noble person to pay off the debt so that a trusted old servant named Maurice can be returned to her home, she pays with the money Prince Henry had given her.  Prince Henry is intrigued by Danielle (posing as the Comtesse Nicole de Lancret, which was her mother’s name), he considers her both courageous and outspoken.  After meeting several more time and sharing several more adventures together they begin to fall in love.

Danielle de Barbarac (played by Drew Barrymore) and
Prince Henry (played by Dougray Scott).  

A grand ball is being held in his honor at the castle and Prince Henry has invited Danielle.  Since Rodmilla is planning on her eldest daughter to be the one to marry the prince, she stops Danielle from attending by locking her away.  The youngest daughter proves herself to be kind by sympathizing with Danielle’s unfortunate circumstances.  Luckily Leonard de Vinci, who has come to the French court and become friends to both Prince Henry and Danielle, rescues her just in time.  She appears at the masque ball as a butterfly wearing her mother’s gown with wings made by de Vinci.  But before Danielle can tell the prince the truth, Rodmilla reveals Danielle’s true identity as a poor servant girl who is unworthy of a prince.  Now, ashamed at deceiving the prince, Danielle flees the ball leaving behind her “glass slipper”. 

the “glass slipper” that Danielle left behind at the ball

To further punish Danielle, Rodmilla sells her into slavery to an evil man.  Eventually Prince Henry realizes that Danielle is his true love and he rushes to rescue her.  But in a modern twist to the old fairy tale, it seems that Danielle has rescued herself! Prince Henry proposes by placing the “glass slipper” on Danielle’s foot and they soon marry. 

Prince Henry proposes to Danielle with the “glass slipper”

Later, as a result of their cruel intentions toward Danielle, Rodmilla and her eldest daughter are banished to work out their days in servitude. But in the end, Danielle lives happily ever after with her prince charming!!

Special Note: For more information about the Cinderella fairy tale and ideas for incorporating elements of a Cinderella theme into a wedding, please click on the link.

Now it is time to discuss the lovely costume that Danielle wears to Prince Henry’s masque ball. Poor Danielle has only two precious processions in her life that she has managed to keep, one is a book called “Utopia” which was a gift from her dear father and other one is a dress which was previously worn by her mother who unfortunately died when Danielle was very young.  It is her mother’s wedding dress that she wears to the ball and with the help of her friend Leonardo de Vinci who makes her a set of wings to complete the look of a beautiful butterfly. 

Most historical romance dramas take great liberties when creating movie costumes and rarely strive for authenticity instead trying for a look with a modern edge or to convey a particular mood.  In the case of the Ever After film the timeline takes place in France during the 16th century but the costumes have a more Italian Renaissance style.

The dress of Danielle’s mother is made in a Venetian style and it is somewhat whimsical in design with the large wings made by da Vinci keeping with the idea that Danielle is attending a masque ball as a butterfly.  It is interesting to point out that the other guests at the ball are wearing dark colors and this allows Danielle to stand out with the light colored dress which beautifully matches Prince Henry who is also dress in light colored clothing.

The dress has a fitted bodice, detailed sleeves, a split overdress made in a shimmery silver crinkled gauze material and a lovely pale grey silk satin underskirt, the dress also has a slight train.  The deep rounded neckline is worn off the shoulders and antique silver foil scalloped lace trims the edge. 

The bodice features a pale gold lace that is intricately beaded with tiny pearls and seed beads and further embellished with embroidered leaves and oblong shaped bullion appliques, underneath the color of the bodice matches the pale grey underskirt.

At the waistline there are two rows of trim, one is a silver trim and the other is a row of individually sewn pearls.  The overskirt is split into panels in the front are made in an embroidered metallic crinkle material and trimmed with embroidered leaves and flowers along the edges.    

It seems that the dress has full sleeves made in a metallic crinkle organza with an upper band that has lace trim and embellished with embroidery in a swirl pattern and white iridescent and silver beads with the bottom of the band is a floral bullion, the organza is pulled through the top to create a “puff” of material.  There is another “puff” of crinkle organza material and below that is the lower portion of the sleeve which is covered with thin netting that is embellished with floral embroidery and the edges are trimmed with several pearl drops.  

The hem of the skirt is lightly padded and there are rows of French knots which gives detail to bottom.  The padding also serves a purpose of adding weight to the dress since the silk satin of the underskirt and the gauze material of the overskirt were so light.

The back of the dress also features several panels of the shimmery gauze material.  The upper back portion of the dress has the metal support for the wings which are made of netting stretched over a metal frame.  The netting was a light weight fabric making the wings very easy to wear and also allowing them to maneuver beautifully to create an illusion that when she moved it appeared as if she was fluttering like a butterfly! 

The custom shoes made by Salvatore Ferragamo matched the dress perfectly.  The slippers were made in satin covered with muslin woven with silver thread and embellished with embroidery and beading.  The transparent heel was made of plexiglass which gave it a “glass slipper” effect, the heel was also decorated with silver beading.

Danielle’s “glass Slippers” on exhibit

To complete Danielle’s look for the masque ball, an iridescent powder was dusted on her cheeks and above her eyes, several crystals were also scattered across her forehead.

Special Note: For those wishing to create their own magical “Ever After”, shown below are two patterns that were available from Simplicity. I don’t think the patterns are currently available in retail stores but a quick online search may yield a result.


A British Royal Bride – Princess May of Teck

In ongoing series on British Royal Weddings I featured the wedding of Prince George (later King George V) and Princess May of Teck (later Queen Mary); they were married on July 6, 1893 at the Chapel Royal, St. James Palace in London, England.  In this post, I will discuss the wedding dress and bridal accessories which Princess May wore on her wedding day and the jewelry that she receive as wedding gifts from Prince George as well as other members of the Royal family.

As I had mentioned in A Royal Wedding – Prince George and Princess May of Teck, Princess May had been previously been engaged to Prince Albert Victor but he sadly died of pneumonia on January 1892 shortly after their engagement had been announced.  Queen Victoria, Prince Albert’s grandmother had grown very fond of Princess May and after the required period of mourning, the Queen strongly encouraged Prince George to marry his deceased brother’s former fiancé.  By the early part of 1893, Prince George had proposed to Princess May and a wedding date was set for early July of that same year.

Princess May’s bridal trousseau

With such a short time to prepare for the wedding Princess May and her mother, the Duchess of Teck, set about quickly arranging the trousseau.  In keeping with Princess May’s impending marriage to Prince George, who was now second in line to the British throne, it was decided that the items in the trousseau should be entirely made in Great Britain.  The finest silks would come from England, the flannel from Wales, the tweeds from Scotland and beautiful laces from Ireland were selected for Princess May’s trousseau.

Princess May of Teck selecting her trousseau

Princess May’s wedding dress 

The wedding dress for Princess May was made by the Linton & Curtis dressmakers located on Albermarle Street in London, England.  As with Princess May’s wedding trousseau, the entire dress was created in Brittan by English manufactures using English made materials.  The custom-made silk and satin brocade material was created at the Warn& Sons factory in Spitalfields and featured a pattern which incorporated roses, shamrocks, thistles with also Lily of the Valley and Orange Blossoms flowers embroidered in silver thread.  The dress was a relatively simple style with a long train; the front of the dress featured several tiers of Honiton lace which had originally been a part of the Duchess of Teck’s wedding dress.  The bodice of the dress came to a point just below the waist and was trimmed with more of the Honiton lace.  To complete the look of the dress on the wedding day, orange blossoms trimmed the bodice and also attached to the front of the dress.  Today, the wedding dress of Princess May now belongs to the British Royal Collection and is frequently displayed at Kensington Palace in London with several other Royal wedding dresses.


Princess May’s wedding dress – front and back views

Special Note:  For those readers wondering, there was another wedding dress which had been commissioned upon Princess May’s previous engagement to Prince Albert Victor.  Details of the silver embroidered “Lily of the Valley” dress were made public just before Prince Albert unexpectedly died.  All plans for the completion of the dress were stopped and there is no evidence as to what happed to it afterwards.

Princess May accented her bridal attire by wearing a diamond riviere necklace which was a wedding gift from her in-laws, the Prince and Princess of Wales.  She also wore diamond earrings and a diamond brooch fashioned in the shape of an anchor (as shown in the photo below), both were wedding gifts from the bridegroom, Prince George.

Also shown in the photo, Princess May is holding
a Honition lace trimmed handkerchief which was embroidered with her initials.

Princess of May’s wedding veil 

On her wedding day, Princess May wore her mother’s Honiton lace veil wedding veil which the Duchess of Teck had also worn on her wedding day in 1866.  To secure the veil, the Princess wore several diamond pins, the largest one a gift from Queen Victoria.  The veil was worn cascading down the back of the Princess so that her face remained uncovered and in full view.  A small wreath of orange blossoms was also worn on her head.

Prince George and Princess May on their wedding day

Special Note:  The bridal veil would also be worn by the daughter of Prince George and Princess May (later to become King George V and Queen Mary in 1910).  Princess Mary (the Princess Royal) wore the veil when she married Viscount Henry Lascelles (later to become the 6th Earl of Harewood) in 1922.

Princess May’s wedding bouquet 

For the wedding ceremony, the Princess carried a large bridal bouquet made entirely of white flowers which included “York” roses, orchids, lilies of the valley, carnations, orange blossoms and of course the traditional sprig of myrtle.  Queen Victoria and Princess Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, also carried large bouquets on the wedding day of Prince George and Princess May (it has not been reported if the bride’s mother, the Duchess of Teck, carried a bouquet on her daughter’s wedding day)

Princess May’s bridal bouquet is shown in the middle photo,
Queen Victoria’s on the left and Princess Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, on the right

The bridesmaids and attendants 

The bridesmaids and attendants for the wedding of Prince George to Princess May included Princess Victoria and Princess Maud of Wales, sisters of the groom; Princess Victoria and Princess Alexandra of Edinburgh; Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein; Princess Beatrice of Edinburgh, Princess Margaret and Princess Patricia of Connaught; Princess Victoria Eugenie and Princess Alice of Battenberg.  The bridesmaids gowns were made of white satin with silver lace and they wore a simple rose in their hair.

The bridesmaids and attendants

Princess May’s wedding gifts 

Prior to the wedding, traditionally the Royal wedding presents are put on display for the public to view and a list of the items was also printed in the newspaper for those unable to attended the exhibition.

As previously mentioned, Prince George presented his bride with a set of diamond earrings and the anchor diamond brooch, the Princess wore both on her wedding day.  The Prince gave her a perfectly matched five strand pearl necklace accented with a beautiful rose made in pearls and diamonds. The Duke and Duchess of Teck, the bride’s parents, presented her with a lovely set of turquoise and diamond jewelry set consisting of a tiara, necklace and brooch.

The County of Cornwall presented Princess May with a ruby and diamond bracelet in the same style of the Rose of York (remember Prince George was the Duke of York and upon marrying him Princess May became the Duchess of York).  The centerpiece of the bracelet featured a large ruby and diamond rose that was detachable (she often wore it separately as a brooch).    Many years later, when Princess Elizabeth (now the current Queen Elizabeth II) married Prince Phillip in 1947 Queen Mary gave the Cornwall bracelet to her as a wedding present to her granddaughter.

The County of Cornwall Rose of York diamond and ruby bracelet

Royal Ascot – the history, the clothes and of course those hats!

Royal Ascot is a multi-day thoroughbred horse race event that is held every June at the Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, England.  It is considered one of the highlights of the British social season and Queen Elizabeth will traditionally open the event with several members of the British Royal family also in attendance.  In this post I will discuss the history of Royal Ascot and of course those beautiful clothes and amazing hats worn throughout the years. 

Special Note: Royal Ascot hats would be a great inspiration for a guest attending a spring or summer wedding.

The History of Royal Ascot

The Royal Ascot, the story goes, dates back to 1711 when Queen Anne had been riding out near Windsor Castle.  She came across a large flat open area, known as the Ascot Heath, which would be ideal for horses to run at a full stretch.    Originally the race was an endurance event but later it became a speed race for thoroughbred horses. 

As the years passed the British Royal family has become forever associated with Ascot.  For centuries Kings and Queens have shared a passion for horses and attending the annual Ascot races, from Queen Anne to King Edward VII to King George VI to Queen Elizabeth II.  The Royal Procession is a grand tradition at Ascot and was first introduced in 1825 by King George IV.  Today the Queen and members of the Royal family arrive in carriages and the Queen’s Ascot landau is drawn by Windsor Grey horses.

King Edward VII was well known for his equestrian passion and was a constant attendee at Ascot during his lifetime.  In 1910 when he died just a short time before the event it was decided that the late King would not want the race to be suspended.  That year Ascot was a very somber event with the Royal family in deep mourning and in seclusion so the Royal Box remained empty.  Those attending the race wore head to toe black to show respect for the loss of the King. 

During World War II there were no races run at Ascot between 1940 and 1943.  The racecourse was taken over by the army and converted to provide housing for the Royal Artillery.  After the war a young Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II, attended her first Ascot in 1945.  The Queen would soon develop a keen interest in horseracing, something she had shared with her parents, and she would eventually become an owner and breeder of a stable full of racehorses.  The jockeys riding the Queen’s horses are identified by her racing colors, a purple jersey with gold braid and red sleeves and black cap with gold fringe.

1956 – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

To date, the Queen has rarely missed Ascot since her Coronation in 1953 with the exception of 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. She returned in 2021 just a few months after the death of Prince Philip.   

2019 – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip
(sadly this would be the final Ascot that the Royal couple would attend together)

The British Royal family fashion worn at Ascot

The fashions of Royal Ascot have obviously changed throughout the years to keep pace with the different styles from the Victorian era to the Edwardian era to the time during both World Wars and now in the 21st Century. 

Shown below are several photos of the fashions that the women of the British Royal family have worn throughout the years; including Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother as well as Princess Diana and then later Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall and most recently Katherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and Meagan, the Duchess of Sussex.    

1931 – Duke and Duchess of York
(later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth)

1956 – Queen Elizabeth with the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret

1970 – Queen Elizabeth with the Queen Mother and Princess Anne

1981 – Queen Elizabeth with the Queen Mother and
Princess Diana (it was her first Ascot as the Princess of Wales)

1988 – Princess Diana
(this is perhaps my favorite outfit she had worn at Ascot)

1990 – Prince Charles and Princess Diana
(her style had changed from girlish ruffles to elegant suits)

1996 – Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret

2013 – Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall
(this photo would be used as their Christmas card for that year)

2016 – Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge
(this was her first Ascot that she attended after marrying Prince William)

2016 – Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge

2018 – Prince Harry and Meagan – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

2018 – Meagan, the Duchess of Sussex
(this was her first Ascot after marrying Prince Harry)

The three photos shown above are of Queen Elizabeth
wearing just a few of her hats worn at Ascot over the last few years

2019 – Prince William and Katherine – the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge

2019 – Katherine, the Duchess of Cambridge

2021 – Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall
(after the pandemic quarantine a mask has become a fashion accessory)

2021 – Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall

2021 – Queen Elizabeth at the first Ascot after the coronavirus pandemic

So, as previously mentioned, any of the Royal Ascot hats shown above would be a great inspiration for a mother of the bride or groom, a grandmother or any guest attending a spring or summer wedding.

The Cambridge Emeralds

The Cambridge Emeralds came into the royal family through Queen Mary who was the grandmother of the current queen, Queen Elizabeth II.  The story is a very interesting one in which the emeralds were originally acquired by Augusta of Hesse- Kassel, the Duchess of Cambridge (Queen Mary’s grandmother) in 1818 at a charity lottery while they were in Frankfort, Germany.  The box that was the prize is said to have contained somewhere between 30 to 40 cabochon emeralds (cabochon is a French word meaning a gemstone which is in a natural shape and polished as opposed to being fully cut and faceted).

Duchess of Teck wearing the original Cambridge emerald necklace

The Duchess had some of the emeralds set into a pair of drop earrings and a pendant necklace.  After her death her daughter, Mary Adelaide, the Duchess of Teck (Queen Mary’s mother) inherited the emeralds.  Unfortunately, the Cambridge emeralds were almost lost to the royal family when they were passed onto Prince Francis of Teck (Queen Mary’s brother) and when he died suddenly in 1910 the emeralds fell into the possession of his mistress.  Luckily, Princess Mary of Teck (later to become Queen Mary) retrieved the emeralds under questionable circumstances.

Queen Mary was known to wear numerous pieces of jewelry at one time and on the occasion of the Imperial Durbar held in Delhi in 1911, when King George V was crowned Emperor of India, she had a majority of the Cambridge emeralds set into what became known as the Delhi Durbar parure.  (a parure is a set of matching jewelry that would sometimes include a tiara, necklace, bracelet, brooch and earrings)

Then in 1921, Queen Mary bought a diamond and pearl tiara from the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia.  The tiara had been smuggled out of Russia by a British diplomat during the 1917 revolution.  After acquiring the tiara, Queen Mary had it altered and the original teardrop pearls could be replaced by fifteen Cambridge cabochon emeralds.  (Please click on the link, the Queen’s Jewelry Collection – Part One, for additional information on the Grand Duchess Vladimr Tiara)

The remaining Cambridge emeralds were set into additional brooches, necklaces, bracelets and earrings made by Garrards, the Royal Jewelers.  These pieces of jewelry were cleverly designed so that the emeralds could be detachable from their setting so that Queen Mary would be able to insert gemstones that would coordinate with the color of her gowns.

All of the jewelry mentioned; the Delhi Durbar parure, the Vladimir tiara and the additional pieces using the Cambridge emeralds, were the personal property of Queen Mary.  Upon the death of Queen Mary, her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II inherited the collection in 1953.

The Delhi Durbar Tiara

The tiara was originally part of the Delhi Durbar Parure and was set with several of the Cambridge emeralds, many years later the ten cabochon emeralds would be eventually used in the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara.  The Delhi Durbar Tiara is now part of Queen Elizabeth’s personal jewelry collection and is often loaned to Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who wears it without the emeralds.

Delhi Durbar Tiara

Delhi Durbar Tiara worn by Queen Mary   

The Delhi Durbar Necklace

The Delhi Durbar Necklace was specifically made for the 1911 Delhi Durbar and is set with nine cabochon Cambridge emeralds, six large diamonds, numerous smaller diamonds and the Cullinan VII diamond which is an 8.8 carat marquise shaped diamond.  The necklace was made by Garrard at the request of King George V and was presented to Queen Mary on occasion of her 44th birthday.  Since Queen Elizabeth inherited the necklace in 1953 she usually wears it paired with the Vladimir Tiara for evening events.

Delhi Durbar Necklace   

Delhi Durbar Necklace worn by Queen Elizabeth

The Delhi Durbar Earrings

The Delhi Durbar earrings are set with one of the Cambridge oval shaped cabochon emeralds surrounded by 11 diamonds and a matching emerald provided by Garrard surrounded by an additional 11 diamonds.  Since Queen Mary would often wear several necklaces at one time, the earrings were kept relatively simple in style.

Delhi Durbar Emerald Earrings

The Delhi Durbar Stomacher and Scroll Cambridge Emerald Brooch

The Delhi Durbar Stomacher and Scroll Cambridge Emerald brooch are pieces of jewelry specially made by Garrard for Queen Mary to wear to the 1911 Delhi Durbar.  The Delhi Durbar Stomacher is set in gold with seven of the Cambridge emeralds, as well as chips from the Cullinan diamond and several smaller diamonds (a stomacher is customarily a set of elaborate pieces of jewelry that are normally worn over the bodice of a gown)   The stomacher was a favorite of Queen Mary and she wore it often with several additional brooches, such as the Cullinan V Heart Brooch and the Cullinan VIII Emerald-cut Brooch, to create an impressive display   One of those additional brooches worn with the Delhi Durbar Stomacher was the Scroll Cambridge Emerald Brooch which included a square-shaped emerald placed in a scrolled diamond setting and a removable emerald pendant.  Since the Cambridge Emerald collection passed to Queen Elizabeth in 1953 she rarely wears the Stomacher but occasionally wears the Scroll Brooch for day or evening engagements.

Delhi Durbar Stomacher worn by Queen Mary with Delhi Durbar Brooches   

Scroll Cambridge Emerald Brooch

The Delhi Carved Emerald Brooch

Queen Mary was given the Delhi Carved Emerald Brooch by the ladies of India to wear at the Delhi Durbar in 1911.  This brooch does not contain one of the Cambridge Emeralds but it is included in the Delhi Durbar Parure.  Set in silver and gold, the large hexagon shaped emerald is intricately carved with the images a rose on the front and an unidentified plant on the back and it is surrounded by several diamonds.  Queen Mary wore the brooch pinned at the top of the Delhi Durbar Stomacher with additional brooch pinned below.  In 1953, the Delhi Carved Emerald Brooch was passed to Queen Elizabeth and she only wears in occasionally due to its heavy weight.

Delhi Durbar Carved Emerald Brooch

The Round Cambridge Emerald Brooch

Unlike the other pieces of Cambridge Emerald jewelry collection, the Round Cambridge Emerald Brooch was not specifically made for the Delhi Durbar although it was worn for that occasion in 1911.  The round cabochon emerald is surrounded by two rows of diamonds with a pear shaped emerald pendant that can be detached.  After the death of Queen Mary, the brooch was passed to Queen Elizabeth who wears it often and mostly with the pendant attached and but she will occasionally wear it without the pendant.

Round Cambridge Emerald Brooch

Round Cambridge Emerald Brooch worn with pendant by Queen Elizabeth 

   Delhi Durbar Round Emerald Brooch worn without pendant by Queen Elizabeth

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara

In 1921, Queen Mary bought a diamond and pearl tiara from the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia.  Queen Elizabeth inherited the tiara in 1953 and frequently wears it with the original teardrop pendants and occasionally with the interchangeable Cambridge Emerald pendants. (Please click on the following link, the Queen’s Jewelry Collection – Part Two, for additional information on the Grand Duchess Vladimr Tiara)

Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara

The Art Deco Emerald Choker

There is some controversy surrounding this Art Deco Emerald Choker and it was always believed that this necklace was created for Queen Mary with the Cambridge Emeralds for the 1911 Delhi Durbar.  Recently it was determined that the emeralds used in the necklace were in fact a gift to Queen Mary from the Ladies of India. Then the Art Deco choker was passed to Queen Elizabeth in 1953 but she did not prefer the shortened style.  Much later in the 1980s the Queen loaned the choker to Diana, the Princess of Wales.  Diana wore the choker often and it became one of her signature pieces of jewelry.  Then in 1985 on a tour of Australia she wore the choker in a very unusual way.  At an evening engagement in Melbourne Diana cleverly accessorized her beautiful Emanuel designed evening gown by wearing the choker as a bandeau in a distinctive 1920 style across her forehead.  Upon Diana’s death in 1997 the necklace was returned to the Queen.

Delhi Durbar Choker

Delhi Durbar Choker worn by Princess Diana 

   Delhi Durbar Choker worn Princess Diana wears as headpeice

For more information about Emeralds as a wedding gemstone as well as other famous emeralds, please click on the link.

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)

A British Royal Bride – Princess Alexandra of Denmark

Previously on this blog I featured a post about the British Royal wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra which took place on March 10, 1863 at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.    Princess Alexandra of Denmark was statuesque in height, slim in weight and very beautiful with an outward dignified appearance.  Later, as Princess of Wales and then Queen Alexandra, she would ultimately influence the fashion style for England during the late Victorian and Edwardian period.  This week’s post will be about Princess Alexandra as a Royal bride and I will discuss what she wore on her wedding day including all the items of her bridal ensemble and jewelry.

Princess Alexandra’s wedding dress and bridal accessories

At the time of the wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra, the Royal court was still in mourning after the unexpected death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert the Prince Consort, in December 1861. Although the wedding of the heir apparent to the English throne was a grand occasion that normally called for colorful and elaborate dresses to be wore by the women in attendance, the invited guests wore somber clothing.  The strict rules that dictated the mourning customs of the time meant that the royal court was initially required to wear black and then after a period of time shades of grey, lilac or mauve.  Queen Victoria wore a black dress for the wedding and she continued to wear black for the remainder of her life to honor her deceased husband.

One exception to the mourning custom would be the elaborate white wedding gown worn by the eighteen year old bride, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, which was made by Mrs. James of Belgravia from the finest Spitafields silk satin.  The full skirt had an overlay of four Honiton lace flounces that featured a design that incorporated the symbols of England (roses), Ireland (shamrocks) and Scotland (thistles).  The lace was designed and manufactured by John Tucker and Company of Branscombe near Sidmouth.  Attached to the skirt was a 21 foot train of antique silver moiré which was carried by the bridesmaids on the wedding day.  The dress was also trimmed with orange blossoms and the Princess also wore a white Honiton lace veil that was secured on her head by a wreath of additional orange blossoms and myrtle.  The bridegroom, Prince Albert, wore the uniform of an army general under his Order of the Garter robe on the wedding day.  (Special Note:  Princess Alexandra had originally received a gift of Belgium lace from King Leopold of Belgium which was intended to be used for her wedding dress but Queen Victoria preferred that all the materials for the future bride of the Prince of Wales should be manufactured in Britain)


Princess Alexandra and Prince Albert

Princess Alexandra’s wedding dress

Princess Alexandra’s eight bridesmaids wore white silk dresses trimmed with tulle and floral roses; they also wore floral wreaths of roses in their hair.  The British novelist William Thackeray, who attended the wedding, later remarked that the Princess and her bridesmaids reminded him of a fairy tale in which a group of beautiful young ladies were changed into graceful swans.

Princess Alexandra’s eight bridesmaids

Princess Alexandra’s wedding bouquet holder

On her wedding day Princess Alexandra carried a bridal bouquet of white roses, lilies of the valley, orchids and the traditional sprig of myrtle.  The elaborate bouquet holder featured an upper section of rock crystal carved into a cone shape to hold the flowers.  The crystal cone was embellished with diamonds, emeralds, pink coral and pearls.  In honor of the Princess’ royal status, the middle section featured a coronet with a gold chain decorated with pearls and a gold and pearl studded ring to wear on the hand.  Below the coronet is the symbolic trio of white feathers for the Prince of Wales created in diamonds and a monogram “A” for Alexandra made of rubies.  At the bottom of the holder was a small crystal sphere set with more rubies.

The wedding bouquet holder of Princess Alexandra

Princess Alexandra’s wedding jewelry

Princess of Wales diamond and pearl wedding set –

Prince Albert gave his bride a spectacular jewelry set that was presented to the Princess Alexandra on the wedding day.  The wedding set made by Garrard the Royal Jewelers included the diamond Rundell tiara, a diamond and pearl necklace with a matching set of earrings and brooch. The lovely Princess of Wales pearl and diamond necklace features seven medallions featuring large pearls surrounded by diamonds with another pearl and diamond medallion used as a clasp, the three center medallions with pearl drop pendants can be detached and wore as brooches.  The necklace medallions are connected with double rows of diamonds that gently drape when wore around the neck.  After the death of Princess Alexandra (later known as Queen Alexandra) the necklace was inherited by Queen Mary, who passed it onto Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and then Queen Elizabeth II. The matching earrings of the wedding set featured two large pearls surrounded by diamonds, the earrings are currently known as Queen Alexander’s Cluster Earrings.   The matching brooch features one large pearl in the center and two smaller pearls on either side, diamonds surrounded the pearls and three pearl pendants accented with large diamonds can be detached.  The brooch is now known as the Queen Alexandra Triple-drop Brooch and it was passed onto Queen Mary and then later to Queen Elizabeth II.

Princess of Wales diamond and pearl wedding set

The final item in the wedding set is the diamond Rundell Tiara.  The name is something of a curiosity because despite the fact that it was made by Garrard, the Royal Jewelers, Rundell was the name of a former jewelry company that had a Royal Warrant but closed in 1843 twenty years before the Royal wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales.  The other misnomer is that the piece is not a tiara but by definition a coronet because it forms a closed circle.  The base of the piece has two rows of diamonds with ten large pear-shaped diamonds connected with smaller diamonds forming a scroll pattern.  The different components of the piece can be removed, the large diamonds can be worn as brooches, the base can be worn alone or Queen Alexandra sometimes added several diamond star brooches.  After the death of the Queen, the Rundell Tiara was passed to her daughter Princess Victoria and it is possible that the jewels were removed and repurposed into other pieces of jewelry.

Princess Alexandra wearing the complete Rundell Tiara
in a Jubilee portrait by Bassano dated 1887

Princess Alexandra wearing the Rundell Tiara without the diamond scrolls

Princess Alexandra’s opal and diamond set –

Queen Victoria gave her new daughter-in-law, Princess Alexandra, an opal and diamond set as a wedding gift.  The set was made by Garrard and included a cross pendant with three oval-shaped opals, three matching brooches, earrings and a bracelet.  The Princess wore the opal and diamond bracelet on her left arm on her wedding day and on her right arm she wore another opal and diamond bracelet which was a wedding gift from the ladies of Manchester.  (Special Note: During the Victorian Era, opals were thought to be a symbol of bad luck and later the Princess possibly had the set repurposed into other pieces of jewelry but the fate of those items is unknown)

Princess Alexandra’s opal and diamond set
received as a wedding gift from Queen Victoria

Princess Alexandra’s opal and diamond bracelet wore on her wedding day

Princess Alexandra’s bridesmaids bracelet –

Another item that Princess Alexandra received as a wedding gift was a lovely gold bracelet from her bridesmaids that performed as her train bearers.  The bracelet, made by Garrard, featured eight linked blue enameled hinged lockets set with diamond initials for the first name of each bridesmaid.  The lockets opened to reveal hand-painted miniature portraits of each of the eight bridesmaids. (Special Note: Later, on the silver wedding anniversary of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the bridesmaids presented a beautiful silver box to hold the bracelet when it was not being worn)

Princess Alexandra’s Dagmar necklace –

The last item of jewelry that I will discuss was actually one of the first gifts that Princess Alexandra had received shortly after the official announcement of the engagement and before the wedding day.  The Dragmar necklace was a gift from King Frederick VII, the Princess’ grandfather, that she received before leaving Denmark to travel to England.  The magnificent necklace made by the Danish court jeweler, Julius Dideriksen, featured 118 pearls and 2000 diamonds set in gold and arranged in medallions with a large diamond in the center surrounded by scroll work created with more diamonds and connected with jeweled swags.  The Dagmar cross was placed in the center of the necklace and two large pearls on either side of the cross were so valuable they were exhibited at the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace in 1851.(Historical Note: King Frederick who gave Princess Alexandra the Dragmar necklace would later die in November 1863 a few months after her wedding and Princess Alexandra’s father would become King Christian IX)

The source of the necklace’s name and the most remarkable element of the elaborate necklace is the Dagmar Cross.  The story behind the necklace is that Queen Dagmar was the wife of King Waldermar of Denmark and when she died in 1212 she was buried with a pectoral cross on her chest.  When the tomb was opened in 1690, the cross was removed and is now one of the most precious relics of Denmark.  For centuries it had become a tradition that when a Danish Princess is married she is given a duplicate of the Dagmar Cross.

The centerpiece of the necklace created for Prince Alexandra is a cloisonné enameled Byzantine gold cross that is a duplicate of Queen Dagmar’s cross and it has been documented that the cross held a small piece from the original cross and a piece of silk fabric from King Canute’s grave.

Princess Alexandra’s Dagmar Necklace

The Dagmar Cross

The Dagmar necklace was a very difficult piece of jewelry to wear because the diamond and pearl swags did not always lay flat.  Princess Alexandra (later Queen Alexandra) was known for layering on her jewelry and more was … well, more!!  Shown in the photo below Queen Alexandra dressed on the coronation day of her husband in 1902, who became known as King Edward VII.  The Dagmar necklace is seen attached to the lower portion of the bodice’s dress.

After the death of Queen Alexandra in 1925, the necklace was passed onto Queen Mary, then Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and eventually to Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.  After it had been passed to Queen Elizabeth II she wore it on a handful of occasions in the 1950s and early 1960s, including during her 1957 state visit to Denmark, each time using it with the two largest pearl pendants and the Dagmar Cross removed.

For more information regarding Princess Alexandra – A Fashion Icon, Please click on the link.


Helen Rose – An American Movie Costume Designer

To continue this blog’s ongoing series on fashion and costume designers, in this post I will discuss the career of Helen Rose who was an American costume designer at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio during the 1940s to the 1960s.  She created costumes for some of the most glamorous film stars, such as Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor.  In fact they love her designs so much that on their wedding days both ladies wore bridal gowns made by Helen Rose.   (Special Note: In keeping with the theme of An Elegant Bride blog, the classic Helen Rose 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 Helen Rose

Helen (Bromberg) Rose was born on February 2, 1904 in Chicago, Illinois; her parents were William Bromberg and Ray Bobbs.  Perhaps because her father was part owner of an art reproduction company and her mother was a seamstress, at a young age Helen showed an artistic talent for drawing and fashion design and she convinced her parents to enroll her in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.  She would be hired by the Lester Costume Company to create costumes for vaudeville shows and when her family moved in 1929 she went with them to Los Angeles, California.

Eventually Helen went to work for Fanchon and Marco which was a company that designed costumes for theatrical shows.  After that work experience she was quickly hired to design costumes for the Ice Follies, a touring ice show founded in 1936 which featured elaborate production numbers.      

In the early 1940s Helen worked briefly for 20th Century Fox designing movie costumes mainly for the studio’s musical productions.  Then, in 1943 she was hired by MGM where she would eventually be promoted to the chief designer, she worked at the studio for over forty years. She created costumes for over 200 films for some the most famous movie stars at MGM, including Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Lana Turner, and Esther Williams.  Helen was nominated ten times for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, she won twice for “The Bad and the Beautiful” in 1952 and “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” in 1955.

Helen Rose receiving her Oscar for “The Bad and the Beautiful”

Helen’s influence on the bridal industry was noted when she designed the movie wedding dress for Elizabeth Taylor in “Father of the Bride” (as well her real life 1950 wedding)  Helen also received international attention when she designed the bridal dress for Grace Kelly’s wedding in 1956. 

In 1958 Helen opened her own ready-to-wear line of clothing and she sold her designs to upscale department stores such as Bonwit Teller, Marchall Fields and Joseph Magnin. She also licensed her designs to be sold through Spadea and Advance patterns during the 1950s. 

Helen left the MGM in 1966, by that time studios were using store-bought clothing for their movies and long term contracts were no longer given to studio designers

On a personal note, Helen married Harry Rose on December 28, 1929 and had a daughter named Judy.  She died at the age of 81 in Palm Springs, California on November 9, 1985.

Movie costume designs of Helen Rose

During her forty years working for the studio Helen was especially known for creating lovely costumes made with chiffon which was known to be a very difficult fabric to work with but she liked it because it moved beautifully and would photograph well as it picked up the lights on the studio sets.

So, starting in chronological order I will focused on two very different actresses that Helen designed costumes for, the elegant Grace Kelly and the sexy Elizabeth Taylor. 

Helen created perhaps one of the most iconic wedding dresses of the 1950s for Elizabeth Taylor in the “Father of the Bride” film (1950).  The dress featured elaborate layers of satin fabric creating a full skirt which was tapered to a tiny waistline and a high neck finished with a rounded collar and bodice of beautiful lace. (Special Note: This original wedding dress style was made available to the public through the Alfred Angelo bridal store during the 1950s)  

By 1956 Helen had worked with Grace Kelly on many of the actress’ films for MGM, the 1956 film “High Society” would be one on Grace’s last films for the studio.  She had recently become engage to Prince Rainer and she would be leaving her acting career behing in the United States to start a new life as a Princess in Monaco.  As a funny coincidence, “High Society” was a film in which Grace played a spolied rich girl who was about to be married. Shown in the photo below is one of the dresses designed by Helen and it was a light gray and pink evening chiffon evening gown beautifully embellished with floral embroidery and beading cascading from the shoulder to the hem.      

The second dress worn by Grace that Helen designed for the film was for the wedding scene, the dress was made of silk organza worn over a white underdress.  It featured a full skirt with bellowing sheer sleeves and a pink ribbon tied at the waist and accented with fabric florals that matched the embroidered flowers on the bodice and skirt.  To complete the look, Grace wore a wide brimmed white hat covered with layers of fabric and tulle and a pair of white wrist length gloves. 

Just like Grace, throughout Helen’s years at MGM she worked with Elizabeth Taylor on numerous movies.  In the beginning she created modest dresses for the young ingénue who was at the start of her longer film career but later when Elizabeth began taking on more mature roles in her films her style changed dramatically. 

The movie costume created by Helen for Elizabeth Taylor for “Cat on a Hot Tin” (1958) was a sexy white chiffon dress with a plunging neckline shown in the photo below.  (Special Note: This dress would become a best seller for the Helen Rose clothing line which she started in 1958.  I’m sure many husbands were happy that their wives could dress just like the sultry Elizabeth Taylor!)

Famous wedding dresses designed by Helen Rose

Helen Rose set the bridal trends for generations to come with her movie costume designs for Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly as well as the bridal gown designs for their real life weddings in the 1950s. 

Elizabeth Taylor had finished filming the “Father of the Bride” but just before the movie was officially released she married Conrad “Nicky” Hilton on May 6, 1950 in Beverly Hills, California.  As a wedding gift to the bride MGM had Helen Rose make the bridal gown, it took fifteen seamstresses and embroiders three months to complete at the cost of $1,5000.

The bridal gown used 25 yards of ivory silk satin and featured a full skirt with an illusion bodice embellished with beads and pearls.  The veil was made of 10 yards of silk net and was attached to a Juliet cap covered in pearls.  (Special Note: The dress sold for $188,000 at a Christie’s auction in 2013)

Unfortunately the couple divorce after a year and it would be the first of Elizabeth’s 8 weddings over the next 40 years, she had 7 different husbands but she married Richard Burton twice. 

After her short marriage to Hilton, Elizabeth married Michael Wilding on February 21, 1952 in London, England.  (Special Note: Elizabeth actually held dual citizenship because she was born in London and moved with her parents to California in 1939, both her parents were originally from Kansas and had lived in England for 10 years)

Helen Rose also designed Elizabeth’s wedding dress for her second wedding, it was a jacket with a white collar and cuffs and three-quarter sleeves worn with a matching flared skirt. 

Helen Rose designed the movie costumes worn by Grace Kelly for the four MGM films she starred in and they had developed a great friendship.  When Grace became engaged to Prince Rainer of Monaco she entrusted Helen to create not one but two wedding dresses!  She designed one for the civil ceremony that took place on April 18, 1956 in the Throne Room at the Prince’s Palace and one for the religious ceremony which took place the next day at the Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco.  (Special Note: Both wedding dresses were a special gift to the bride from the MGM Studio)

Grace’s civil ceremony wedding dress was made with a pale pink taffeta with a ivory French Alencon lace overlay which was further embellished with pink embroidery and featured a round collar jacket and a full skirt, to complete her ensemble Grace wore a Juliet cap and gloves.       

For the religious ceremony, which took place on April 19, 1956, Helen Rose created a beautiful wedding dress made with 25 yards of vintage Brussels rose point lace and silk faille taffeta that featured a fitted bodice, high neckline, long sleeves and a full skirt.  The chapel length veil was made of tulle and attached to a Juliet cap embellished with pearls and fabric orange blossoms.  (Special Note:  The iconic wedding dress and accessories were donated by Grace Kelly to the Philadelphia Museum of Art) 

For more information on the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainer of Monaco, please click on the link.

First Ladies Inauguration Ball Gowns

One of the most popular exhibits in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History located in Washington D.C. is the First Ladies Inauguration Ball Gown exhibit.  (Now my husband would argue this point by saying that any of the exhibits at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum are much more exciting!)  In this post I will discuss several of the First Ladies Inauguration Ball Gowns concentrating on the last 60 years with twelve First Ladies and starting in 1961 with Mrs. Jaqueline Kennedy to the most recent in 2021 with Mrs. Jill Biden.  Fashion Note: Any of these First Ladies Inauguration Ball gowns would be a great inspiration for a mother of the bride/groom dress for a formal evening wedding. 

But first, here is some information of how and when the collection of the First Ladies Inauguration Ball Gowns was started.  The collection started in 1912 when the Smithsonian began to accumulate dresses donated from past the First Ladies.   As the collection grew throughout the years, it has been determined that every administration since President Washington is represented, although some of the dresses were not specifically worn for an Inauguration.

Today it has become customary for a former First Lady to donate her Inauguration Ball Gown, occasionally with accessories such as shoes or a purse, to the Smithsonian after the end of a President’s term in office.   In case you were wondering, if a President serves multiple terms, the First Lady will customarily donate the Inauguration Ball gown from the first term and a dress worn for a subsequent term usually goes to her husband’s Presidential library.   

The young and fashionable Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of President John Kennedy (1961 to 1963, wore a custom designed gown by Ethel Frankau of Bergdorf for her husband’s 1961 Inauguration Ball.  The strapless gown was made of peau d’ange fabric embellished with crystals and embroidered with silver thread with a bodice overlay made of silk chiffon.

1961 Inauguration Ball gown worn by Jacqueline Kennedy

For the 1965 Inauguration Ball of President Lyndon Johnson (1963 to 1969) his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, wore a simple yellow silk satin gown designed by John Moore.  The dress had cap sleeve and the matching long coat had sable trimmed sleeves.

1965 Inauguration Ball gown and matching coat worn by Lady Bird Johnson

Pat Nixon, wife of President Richard Nixon (1969 to 1974), wore a gown designed by Karen Berin for her husband’s 1969 Inauguration Ball. The gown was made of yellow mimosa silk satin with gold and silver embroidery and embellished with Austrian crystal.

1969 Inauguration Ball gown worn by Pat Nixon

The next gown in the First Ladies collection was worn for a White House State Dinner by Betty Ford, her husband was President Gerald Ford (1974-1977).  Ford became President after the resignation of Nixon and served out the term but did not win the election in 1976. Special Note: This is an example of a First Ladies dress that was not worn for an Inauguration Ball.  

The pale green sequined chiffon gown embroidered in a chrysanthemum pattern was designed by Frankie Welch.  Mrs. Ford wore the dress twice for a State Dinner, once in 1975 State Dinner for the Shah of Iran and again in 1976 for the State Dinner for King Juan Carlos of Spain.     

1969 Inauguration Ball gown worn by Pat Nixon

For the 1977 Inauguration Ball for President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) his wife, Rosalynn Carter, wore a gown designed by Mary Matise which she had previously worn for the 1971 Gubernatorial Ball when her husband was elected as the Governor of Georgia.  The blue chiffon gown was trimmed with gold embroidery and worn with a matching sleeveless coat.   

1977 Inauguration Ball gown worn by Rosalynn Carter

Four years later, for the1981 Inauguration Ball of President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) his wife Nancy Reagan wore a gown designed by James Galanos.  The glamourous First Lady wore a white one shouldered gown of silk satin heavily beaded gown.  Mrs. Reagan had worked with Galanos previously and had worn a different one shouldered gown for the Gubernatorial Ball in 1967 when husband was elected Governor of California.  Fashion Note: I believe this would be the first time that a First Lady had worn a one shouldered gown for an Inaugural Ball.         

1981 Inauguration Ball gown worn by Nancy Reagan

For the 1989 Inauguration Ball of President George H.W. Bush (1989 to 1993) his wife, Barbara Bush, wore a gown designed by Arnold Scaasi.  The long sleeve gown was made of royal blue velvet and silk satin and featured an asymmetrical skirt; of course she wore the gown with her iconic pearl necklace.   

1989 Inauguration Ball gown worn by Barbara Bush

For the 1993 Inauguration Ball of President Bill Clinton (1993 to 2001) his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, wore a gown designed by Sarah Phillips and made by Barbara Matera Ltd. who was a New York theatrical costume maker.  The gown was made of a lovely violet beaded lace gown with an iridescent blue velvet silk mousseline overskirt. 

1993 Inauguration Ball gown worn by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Eight years later, for the 2001 Inauguration Ball of President George W. Bush (2001-2009) his wife Laura Bush wore a gown designed by Michael Faircloth.  The gown was made in a red crystal embroidered Chantilly lace over silk georgette. 

2001 Inauguration Ball gown worn by Laura Bush

For the 2009 Inauguration Ball of President Barack Obama (2009 to 2017) his wife, Michelle Obama, wore a gown designed by Jason Wu.  The elegant one shouldered white silk chiffon gown is embellished with organza flowers with Swarovski crystal centers.   

2009 Inauguration Ball gown worn by Michelle Obama

For the 2017 Inauguration Ball of President Donald Trump (2017 to 2021) his wife, Melania Trump, wore a gown designed by Herve Pierre. The off the shoulder ivory   crepe gown features a slit skirt, a ruffled trim from the neckline to the hem and a thin red ribbon at the waist. 

2017 Inauguration Ball gown worn by Melania Trump

The next dress may look like an unusual choice, but due to Covid-19 restrictions the Inauguration of President Joe Biden (2021 to present) was very different than any previous administrations.  The swearing-in ceremony had limited capacity and there was no Inauguration Ball but a virtual concert was broadcast in the evening. 

For these reasons First Lady Jill Biden did not wear a formal gown but instead worn a coat and dress ensemble by designer Gabriela Hearst. The knee length dress was made of silk wool with an organza neckline and sleeves which featured floral embroidery that incorporated the flowers from every state and territory of the United States (what a great idea!)  Mrs Biden thoughtfully had the state flower of Delaware embroidered on the bodice positioned on the left side over her heart. 

The matching coat was made of a white cashmere that also had floral embroidery at the hem.  In another sentimental gesture inside the coat Mrs. Biden has a Benjamin Franklin quote embroidered into the lining to honor her career as a college professor which says, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”.

2021 dress and matching coat worn by Jill Biden
on the evening of her husband’s Inauguration

So, as previously mentioned, any of the gowns worn by the First Ladies shown above would be a wonderful inspiration for a dress for a mother of the bride/groom.