Everyone knows the fairy tale about a girl swept away by a handsome prince. On this day in 1956, the bar was raised even higher when beloved, beautiful actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in what was dubbed “The Wedding of the Century.” As with another certain royal wedding, the media hype had been unrelenting since the couple announced their engagement a few months earlier. The fervor was fueled by the announcement that MGM’s Academy Award–winning costume designer Helen Rose would design the wedding dress. It didn’t help matters that Rose remained tight-lipped about Kelly’s look. When the big day arrived on April 19, 1956, more than 30 million people turned on their newfangled television sets just to see the dress the movie star–turned-princess was wearing.
The courtship had begun a year earlier after Kelly posed in a brief photo shoot with Prince Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi at the Canne Film Festival. Apparently, the couple clicked, because Read More »
Although there are conflicting stories regarding their courtship (and because this is a story about a fairy-tale wedding dress, for goodness sake), the romantic in me will tell you that 50 years ago today on December 15, 1960, a royal love match was made official. Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón, a 32-year-old Spanish hospital nurse, nabbed Europe’s most eligible bachelor: 30-year-old King Baudouin I of Belgium.
There are no written accounts of bets being placed on which couturier would design Fabiola’s wedding dress. This is because only one designer was likely ever considered for the job. Cristóbal Balenciaga had three things going for him: He was a friend of the family (he designed the bride-to-be’s first formal ball gown), Spanish and, not unimportantly, one of the top couturiers of the era, right up there alongside Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain. (To wit, upon his death in 1972, Women’s Wear Daily announced, “the king is dead.”)
The wedding dress was not only designed by Balenciaga, but also executed by his own hand in the utmost secrecy in the designer’s Madrid apartment. Under his personal workmanship, the mink-trimmed, ivory silk gown that emerged captured a style that was timeless and modern, sumptuous and understated—even with a 20-foot train. By royal standards it was somewhat unconventional: There was none of the requisite antique lace Read More »
Think of a Hollywood princess who transitioned to real-life royalty, and Grace Kelly usually gets named for her marriage to Prince Rainier in 1956. But Rita Hayworth did it first when she married Prince Aly Khan on May 27, 1949. Maybe the fact that Khan was married when they pair met and the couple flaunted their affair, the lightening-quick wedding was Hayworth’s second (her first was to fellow actor Orson Welles), and because the scandalous couple stayed together just two years all had something to do with the public’s short memory on the matter. Jacques Fath, the designer of Hayworth’s wedding dress and trousseau, would also be overshadowed when his label fell into obscurity following his untimely death on this day in 1954 at age 42. It wasn’t that Fath’s designs weren’t memorable, but his contemporaries—Dior, Balmain, Chanel and Balenciaga—simply had investors who ensured their companies survived them. Fath’s glamourous evening designs were often published in magazine editorials, but the summery Read More »
She may have terrorized the people, but she looked damn good doing it. She may not have been a runway model candidate with her Rubenesque curves, short stature and sharp Italian features, but she was definitely a style icon, the Babe Paley or Gloria Guinness of her time. A trailblazer of 16th century fashion, Catherine de Medici is credited with importing many of Italy’s luxuries and customs to France: perfume, ballet, eating with a fork, and of course, Italian fashions (though the French would never admit it). At her wedding, on this day in 1533, to the future King of France, Henry, Duke of Orleans, she outshone everybody, including Henry’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers, as she introduced the world to women’s high heels.
Bejeweled and bodiced, Catherine’s wedding attire may have been more extravagant than Lady Di’s meringue gown. In her biography of Catherine de Medici, Leonie Frieda describes Catherine’s dress of golden brocade robes; a violet corsage, or bodice piece, encrusted with gems and edged in ermine; a ruff, an Italian fashion standard that she also introduced to the French on her wedding day; Read More »
Sometime in July of 1996, word leaked to the press that the fiancée of America’s most eligible bachelor, John F. Kennedy Jr., was seen canoodling with another man in Paris. “I’m her supposed French lover,” designer Narciso Rodriguez dryly told The New York Times. The truth was revealed two months later on this day in 1996, when Bessette, wearing a plain, silk sheath designed by her alleged Parisian beau, married Kennedy in a private ceremony on Cumberland Island, Georgia. The next day a single photograph—the only one distributed from the wedding—showed the radiant couple descending the church steps in their finery. Kennedy had asked Denis Reggie, the unofficial Kennedy wedding photographer, to choose the picture that he felt told the story of the day, and the photo did more than that: The image captured Bessette in a revolutionary new style of wedding dress, one that was simple, elegant and, yes, sexy all at the same time.