16 June 2010

Top 10 Best Royal Wedding Dresses: #2. HSH Princess Grace

Grace Kelly & HSH Prince Rainier of Monaco
April 19, 1956

If Princess Diana's dress isn't the one that first comes to mind when you think of royal wedding gowns, there's a pretty good chance Grace Kelly's is the one that does. This is the stuff of icons.

When Grace Kelly accepted Prince Rainier's proposal, she was still under contract with MGM. At the time, MGM had a policy of providing their female stars with their wedding dresses (both the publicity and the ability of their stars to remain virtuous as married women was good for business), so Helen Rose from MGM's costume department was recruited to design the royal wedding gown.

Rose used rose point lace on the bodice, veil, train insert and prayer book; Valenciennes lace for the skirt support and ruffled petticoat; and taffeta for the skirt. The dress is quite uniquely constructed. First, Grace put on the bodice layer: the bodice was attached to an underbodice, a ruffled skirt support (forming the unique bell shape of the skirt) and a slip. Then came the skirt, which itself included 3 attached petticoats underneath the faille exterior: one for foundation, one ruffled for volume, and the top petticoat for smoothing. A separate pleated taffeta cummerbund fused the top and skirt together, and finally a lace train insert was added in to the back.

One of my favorite things about this dress is the back. Helen Rose believed that the back of a wedding dress should be as interesting as the front; after all, the bride will spend most of the service with her back to her guests. The way the skirt pleats around the body and the train insert peeks out from underneath is not only elegant, it's quite unique among wedding dress designs. And the length is just right for the scale of the dress; it doesn't need to rely on a train of mammoth length to set it apart.

Grace was also set apart from other royal brides by not wearing a tiara; instead, her veil was attached to a beaded juliet cap. She chose to carry a prayer book with her down the aisle, which was naturally covered to match the dress.

This is one dress I doubt anyone could argue doesn't belong in the top 10. It was elegant, unique, appropriate, and served as the perfect transition from movie star to full-fledged royal for Grace Kelly.  Based on sheer memorability along, Helen Rose's design deserves every accolade it gets.

Click here to see all of the Top 10 dresses!

Photos: Corbis, Philadelphia Museum of Art