A Look Back at Princess Margaret's Timeless Wedding Gown
Princess Margaret was well-known as the trailblazer within the British Royal Family during the 20th century. The late princess and younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II often made headlines for her independent spirit and controversial relationships. When she and photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones (later known as Lord Snowdon) got married in Westminster Abbey on May 6, 1960, theirs became the first royal wedding to be televised, sparking a trend that has lasted for decades and generations since. (See: Prince Charles and Diana Spencer's televised nuptials in 1981; Prince William and Kate Middleton's 2011 wedding broadcast; and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's much-anticipated 2018 wedding, which had a total of 11.5 million people tuning in on the day-of.)
Not only that, but the fashionable princess also made waves with her wedding dress, which was dubbed "the simplest royal wedding gown in history" by Life magazine. Simple though it was, Princess Margaret's wedding day look has inspired countless royal brides in the years and decades since, and is still arguably one of the most iconic gowns to date.
Who Designed Princess Margaret's Wedding Dress?
Princess Margaret entrusted the big task of designing her wedding dress to Norman Hartnell, a British designer who already had plenty of experience working with the royal family. Hartnell had in fact designed Queen Elizabeth's wedding gown 13 years earlier and had even designed the bridesmaid dresses for both Princess Margaret and then-Princess Elizabeth many years prior for the Duchess of Glouchester's wedding, which was held privately. (The Duchess of Glouchester's father died prior to the ceremony, so the royal wedding was downsized to a private ceremony.)
Though it's unknown how deeply involved Princess Margaret was in the design process of her own wedding dress, what is known is that Hartnell took Margaret's petite frame into account when he opted to keep the gown's adornments to a minimum. The thinking went that traditional embellishments like lace or beading would overwhelm the bride, and so these were kept to a minimum.
The Style, Shape and More
Part of the reason why Princess Margaret's wedding gown has remained such a point of interest for royal wedding fans is its simplicity and timelessness. The dress was made of silk organza and featured long sleeves. It featured a V-neckline, which was considered bold and risqué for the times, and a full skirt that required about 98 feet of fabric.
The gown was meant to show off the British royal's figure, and so lacked the sort of embellishments that are common for royal wedding dresses. (Case in point: Grace Kelly's wedding gown featured hundreds of hand-sewn seed pearls.) Its elegant silhouette has been said to have inspired her daughter Lady Sarah Chatto's simple off-the-shoulder wedding dress and the Duchess of Sussex's own clean-lined Givenchy wedding gown. Presently, Princess Margaret's wedding dress is on display at Kensington Palace as part of an ongoing exhibit about royal wedding dresses.
Accessories From Princess Margaret's Wedding Day Look
Since her wedding dress didn't have many embellishments, Princess Margaret opted to up the glam factor with her accessories, which included a glittering tiara known as the Poltimore tiara. Created in 1870 by Garrard for Lady Poltimore, the royal tiara featured a graduated line of cushion-shaped and old-cut diamond clusters that alternated with diamond-set scroll motifs.
Princess Margaret also donned a cathedral-length, silk, tulle veil that billowed out as she walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey alongside her brother-in-law, Prince Phillip. (Her own father, King George VI, had passed away several years earlier, so the Duke of Edinburgh was the one to give her away.) Princess Margaret's wedding shoes were made by royal shoemaker Edward Rayne in a traditional court style, composed of white crepe and satin, and featured slender two-and-a-half-inch heels.
Surprising Facts About Princess Margaret's Wedding
Princess Margaret was never one to follow the rules, and her wedding day was no different. For her wedding look, Princess Margaret Rose Windsor kept her aesthetic understated and elegant, in contrast to some of the more bejeweled and embellished royal wedding gowns of times past, a la Queen Victoria's frilly lace gown or even the richly crystal and pearl-embroidered silk gown her sister, the Queen, wore for her 1947 nuptials to Prince Philip. Here are a few other surprising facts about Princess Margaret's wedding day look.
She bought her own wedding tiara.
Bucking tradition, Princess Margaret bought the Poltimore tiara with her own money ahead of her engagement announcement, and even wore it out in public a few times before the wedding. Historically, princesses have borrowed tiaras from the Royal Collection, making her decision a rather unconventional one. In the years and generations since, royal brides like Princess Eugenie, Princess Beatrice and even Princess Diana have borrowed headpieces from the Royal Collection or from the Queen Mother herself.
Her wedding bouquet was similar to Queen Elizabeth's arrangement.
Princess Margaret's wedding bouquet was modest by royal standards and featured primarily orchids. It also likely featured a sprig of myrtle, a flower symbolizing love and marriage, as every royal bride has included in their wedding bouquet since Queen Victoria's 1840 wedding to Prince Albert. The bouquet was said to be similar to her sister the Queen's, but just smaller in size. After the wedding, Princess Margaret left the bouquet at Westminster Abbey, as is custom.
There were multiple wedding cakes.
Whereas Princess Margaret seemed to skimp on the pomp and circumstance with her simple, clean-lined wedding gown, she definitely didn't hold back on her wedding day desserts. She and Armstrong-Jones commissioned J.Lyons and Company, a London-based bakery, to create a massive five-foot-tall concoction with unique hexagonal tiers. According to Eater, the epic cake borrowed from French architectural design, and was technically composed of 20 cakes total. The finished product boasted the couple's new monogram, Princess Margaret's coat of arms and an English rose. It weighed a whopping 150 pounds.