Grace Kelly's Wedding Dress: A Closer Look at the Fairytale Gown
Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, was a fashion icon. The Hollywood star's 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier launched her into the realm of royal wedding legend. An American actress, who had at that point attended countless awards shows, Kelly made the ultimate red carpet debut in a lace and silk taffeta wedding dress that has since inspired countless bridal gowns.
With its high neckline, long sleeves, fitted bodice and voluminous skirt, Grace Kelly's wedding dress offered up a silhouette that was both timeless and trendsetting. Legendary designer Oscar de la Renta famously said of the Hollywood star's look, "On her wedding day, Grace Kelly gave new meaning to the word icon.
Her whole look, from the regal veil to the feminine lace details and the conservative gown, made her an ageless bride." And sure enough, decades later, Princess Grace of Monaco's royal wedding dress is still heralded as one of the most iconic bridal looks of the 20th century. Get all the details about the making of the extraordinary gown below, and find out where it is currently on display.
Who Designed Grace Kelly's Wedding Dress?
Shortly after Grace Kelly got engaged to Prince Rainier in 1956, there was one big question on everyone's mind: Who would design the Hollywood star's glamorous wedding dress? Edith Head, a dear designer friend of Kelly's, assumed that she would be given the opportunity, but ultimately, the honor was bestowed upon Helen Rose, an Academy Award-winning costume designer who had worked with Kelly on four of her films, including The Swan and High Society. The gown was gifted to Princess Grace by her studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM Studios), and reportedly required six weeks and 30 seamstresses to make. The elegant gown was comprised of 10 separate parts that the studio's wardrobe department hand-made using over 400 yards of fabric.
Rose also designed Kelly's lesser-known outfit for her civil ceremony, a pink brocade two-piece, which the American actress wore one day earlier.
How Much Did Grace Kelly's Wedding Dress Cost?
According to Insider, the Princess of Monaco's wedding gown cost $65,200 to make back in 1956, which would be the equivalent of about $623,000 today, making it one of the most expensive royal wedding dresses to date. By comparison, Princess Diana's iconic gown for her nuptials to Prince Charles cost about $127,000 in 1981, or the equivalent of $490,000 today. Meghan Markle's modern Givenchy wedding dress cost around $265,000 to make back in 2018 (or around $276,000 in today's terms). Much of Grace Kelly's wedding gown costs came down to its materials: the multi-layered dress required more than 100 yards of silk net and featured 125-year-old Brussels lace, taffeta and thousands of hand-sewn pearls. Even the Juliet cap that held the movie star's veil firmly in place featured exquisite lace and pearl embellishments.
The Style, Shape and More
Princess Grace's wedding dress is perhaps best recognized for its unique silhouette—a high neckline, long lace sleeves, a fitted lace bodice, and a bell-shaped skirt with a three-foot-long train. The details of the gown's construction are impressive: the bodice included an under-bodice, skirt support, and slip; the pleated silk faille skirt was made up of three attached petticoats—a foundation petticoat, a ruffled petticoat and a smoothing petticoat; and the three-foot-long train was comprised of a triangular tulle and lace insert. A silk faille cummerbund completed the look.
The MGM wardrobe department also hand-sewed thousands of pearls onto the skirt itself and re-embroidered the antique Brussels lace bodice so as to render the seams invisible, adding seed pearls to further elevate the gown. Kelly's wedding gown has inspired numerous other famous dresses, including Kate Middleton's 2011 Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen wedding gown, Miranda Kerr's 2017 Dior wedding dress and even Billie Eilish's 2021 Oscar de la Renta Met Gala gown.
Accessories from Princess Grace's Wedding Day Look
Grace Kelly accessorized her wedding gown with several memorable pieces that highlighted her personal aesthetic. Perhaps most talked-about was her headpiece, which replaced the more traditional tiara. It was an embellished Juliet cap decorated with pearls and lace, featuring a wreath of paper orange blossoms. Her veil, which streamed down from the cap, was a specially designed circular veil that kept her famous face as visible as possible for the 600 wedding guests and approximately 30 million viewers who were tuned in from around the globe.
Princess Grace also bucked royal tradition by carrying a book rather than a huge bouquet, opting, as well, for simple lilies of the valley. She donned custom shoes by David Evins, a pair of pumps with two-and-a-half-inch heels embellished with seed pearls and lace (Kelly didn't want to tower over Prince Rainier III, as the spouses were approximately the same height).
Surprising Facts About Grace Kelly's Wedding Dress
Grace Kelly's wedding dress has been admired, dissected and imitated many times over, but there are certain elements of the Helen Rose gown that will forever remain unique to the original classic. The so-called "wedding of the century" was held at the Prince's Palace of Monaco and the Saint Nicholas Cathedral, and was televised for enthusiastic viewers all over the globe. Still, there were several meaningful details that the cameras may not have captured, a few of them listed below.
Kelly had a good luck charm.
Princess Grace enlisted the help of David Evins to create custom pumps for her royal wedding, and the designer delivered (and then some). Evins tucked a copper penny into the right shoe for good luck, and engraved her name into the left shoe. (Prince Rainier III's name was engraved into the right shoe.) The heel of the shoe was considerably modest at two-and-a-half inches so that Kelly wouldn't tower over the groom.
Her veil was designed with TV cameras in mind.
Helen Rose created a circular veil that made Kelly's face as visible as possible to her adoring public. The veil featured appliquéd lace motifs around the edges and a fun detail paying homage to the couple's romance: a pair of tiny lovebirds.
The bridal book was a gift from MGM.
In addition to gifting her with the gown itself, MGM also gave Kelly a prayer book to carry during the ceremony. According to Grace Kelly Online, the book was specifically Rev. J.M. Lelen's Bride's Manual: A Manual of Catholic Devotion with Mass for the Marriage Ceremony and the Nuptial Blessing. It was decorated with silk, lace and pearls to match her wedding gown.
Grace Kelly's Second Wedding Dress
The day before Kelly and Prince Rainier's religious ceremony, they wed in a civil ceremony, where Kelly wore a lesser-known second wedding dress. The dress, also designed by Helen Rose, was made entirely of taffeta and then covered with French Alençon lace, cast in a hue of pastel pink. The outfit boasted an entirely different silhouette: it included a fitted bodice with a rounded collar jacket and a bell-shaped skirt with a hemline that hit around Kelly's calves. The bride wore a stylish Juliet cap and delicate kid gloves to complete the outfit.
After the civil ceremony, the couple was feted with a lavish gala at the Monaco Opera, where Princess Grace donned a white silk Lanvin gown.
Where Is Grace Kelly's Wedding Gown Now?
Presently, Kelly's wedding gown is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it has been admired by visitors in the decades since her historic wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. (Kelly was born and raised in Philadelphia.) And in fact, the gown has been on display there since her 1956 wedding.
"As a royal bride, her magnificent yet simple ensemble incited intense interest and admiration," the museum states on its site. "Shortly after the wedding, the princess presented the gown to the museum, where it has become one of the collection's most popular and beloved objects, and continues to serve as the ultimate exemplar of bridal elegance."