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.