09 May 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Queen Sofia's Gown

Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark
May 14, 1962
Athens, Greece

More than 140 royals descended upon Athens in 1962 for what I can only describe as a big fat Greek royal wedding. It’s one of the last of the major royal/royal marriages: she, the eldest child of the King and Queen of Greece; he, an exiled royal who would actually get his throne back in the years to come. Juan Carlos had previously been linked to Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy and rumors had Sophia’s name thrown together with Crown Prince Harald of Norway, but things changed between these two acquaintances when they both attended the Duke and Duchess of Kent’s wedding in 1961.
It wasn’t just a big wedding in terms of royal attendance; it was big on ceremony too. The marathon day included three ceremonies in three different locations to satisfy Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and civil needs.
Even the dress was big, incorporating some seriously luxurious materials. Jean Dessès, a Paris couturier with Greek roots and a new Athens salon, was chosen for the job and the dress was made in Greece by Greek seamstresses at the bride’s request. They made Sophia one of the most intricate royal wedding gowns around: a silver-white lamé base covered in tulle and old lace.
The tremendous amount of lacy detail is saved from becoming overwhelming by the relative simplicity of the dress shape. Unfortunately, these details are not at all served well by the quality of the media at the time and tend to disappear in photographs. What an amazing sight it must be in person, with the lamé shining through the layers of tulle and lace.
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One detail that won’t get lost in time is the sheer length of her train. About 20 foot long and made of more lamé covered with organza, it served as a base for her 15 foot lace veil – the same one used by her mother, Queen Frederika, and anchored by the Prussian Diamond Tiara from Frederika.
A bevy of royal bridesmaids were required to manage this major dress extension: Princess Irene of Greece, Princess Irene of the Netherlands, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Princess Benedikte and Anne-Marie of Denmark, Princess Anne of France, Infanta Pilar of Spain, and Princess Tatiana Radziwell. (Anne-Marie married Sophia’s brother Constantine two years later.)
Juan Carlos and Sofia (now known around here by the Spanish version of her name) became King and Queen of Spain in 1975 after the death of General Franco and the restoration of the monarchy. They of course have three children (Elena, Cristina, and Felipe) and several grandchildren. This year marks their 50th wedding anniversary, but no official celebrations are planned.

What do think of Sofia's complicated gown?

Photos: Life/Getty Images/The Royal Forums