This story is featured on Over the Moon, the sweetest wedding website created by my former editors at Vogue, Alexandra Macon and Andee Olson.
I love a royal wedding—haven’t you noticed? Royal weddings have been national celebrations for generations. Perhaps it’s the Chantilly lace, the lavish 25-foot trains, or the cascading lily of the valley that evokes an enchanting reimagining of our favorite fairy tale. And amidst all of the pomp and circumstance, there are certain rules that are supposed to be followed. One being that their gown must speak of its time, rather than being timeless.
Some royal brides, however, choose to ignore whatever style is de rigueur. It was Queen Victoria, who in 1840, wore white on her wedding day when color was considered the norm. The world then followed suit and white became convention.
Almost a century later in 1937, Wallis Simpson’s wedding to Prince Edward, the Duke of Windsor, was considered scandalous. Not only because the Duke had abdicated his throne to marry the woman he loved, but because Simpson (an American divorcée) went against grandeur tradition and donned an austere dress and chapeau in “Wallis Blue.” The dress resides in the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art today.
In 1947, Queen Elizabeth II’s couturier Norman Hartnell named Botticelli’s “Primavera” painting as the inspiration for the elaborate embroidered florals on the then-Princess’s ivory satin dress. Later in 1960, Hartnell designed an hourglass ball-gown silhouette with acres of unadorned, white organza for Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret. Vogue dubbed her, “a new princess.” Hartnell was later knighted for his work in creating both gowns.
From Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco’s magnificent headdress to Lady Diana’s mille feuille, I’ve taken a look back at the evolution of royal bridal looks.
Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 at the Chapel Royal, St. James’ Palace in London. She is celebrated as the first to wear white on her wedding day and the first to carry florals down the aisle instead of herbs.
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons and King George VI
In 1923, Vogue announced the engagement of Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon to His Royal Highness the Duke of York. The couple married just a month later in Westminster Abbey in London. The gown, inspired by Coco Chanel’s unstructured look, was designed by Madame Handley Seymour. The lace of her veil was gifted by the groom’s mother, Queen Mary.
In 1937, Wallis Simpson married Prince Edward, The Duke of Windsor, at the Château de Candé in France. Her gown, designed by Mainbocher, is now held in the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cecil Beaton photographed the couple on their wedding day for Vogue.
Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) married Prince Mountbatten in 1947 at Westminster Abbey in London. Her wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell.
Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956. Her gown was designed by Helen Rose, who was the costumer for her films High Society and The Swan.
Princess Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones, a Vogue photographer, at Westminster Abbey in London in 1960. Her ball gown was designed by Norman Hartnell, who also designed the wedding gown of her sister, Queen Elizabeth II.
Princess Alexandra married Angus Ogilvy at Westminster Abbey in London in 1963. The bride wore a wedding gown of Valenciennes lace, with matching veil and train, designed by John Cavanagh.
In 1973, Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, married Captain Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey in London. The Princess’ gown of hanging sleeves and pearl trelliswork embroidery was designed by Maureen Baker.
King Carl XVI of Sweden married Silvia Sommerlath in 1976 in Stockholm. The bride wore a traditional swedish tiara, called the Cameo, and a silk ivory gown designed by Dior.
Princess Caroline, daughter of Grace Kelly of Monaco, married Philippe Junot in 1978. The bride’s dress was designed by Christian Dior.
Princess Diana married Prince Charles, son of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The bride wore a gown designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel.
Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece married Prince Pavlos in 1995 at St. Sophia’s Cathedral in London. The bride wore a gown designed by Valentino.
Princess Mette-Marit married Prince Haakon of Norway at Oslo Cathedral in Norway in 2001. The bride wore a simple gown of silk crepe, designed by Ove Harder Finseth.
Crown Prince Wilhelm Alexander of the Netherlands married Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in Amsterdam in 2002. The bride wore a Valentino ivory Mikado silk gown.
Prince Felipe of Spain married Princess Letizia at the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid in 2004. Her gown was designed by Spanish designer Manuel Pertegaz.
Prince Floris van Oranje-Nassau, van Vollenhoven married Aimée Sôhngen at the Grote Kerk in Naarden in the Netherlands in 2005. The bride wore a gown designed by Lidy de Joode.
Marie Cavallier married Prince Joachim of Denmark at the Møgeltønder Church in Denmark in 2008. The bride wore an Arasa Morelli design.
Princess Victoria married Prince Daniel of Sweden in Stockholm in 2010. The bride’s gown was designed by Pay Engsheden.
Prince Nikolaos of Greece married Tatiana Blatnik in 2010 in Greece. The bride wore a gown by Angel Sanchez.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were married in 2011 at Westminster Abbey. The Duchess wore an Alexander McQueen gown.
Princess Charlene married Prince Albert II of Monaco in 2011. The bride wore a gown by Armani.
Princess Madeleine married Christopher O’Neill at the Royal Palace Chapel in Stockholm in 2013. The bride wore Valentino.
Grace Kelly’s grandson and Princess Caroline’s son married Tatiana Santo Domingo in 2013 at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. Her gown was by Missoni.
Prince Carl Philip married Princess Sofia of Sweden at the Royal Palace Chapel in Stockholm in 2015. The Princess’s gown was designed by Ida Sjöstedt.
Beatrice Borromeo married Pierre Casiraghi, the youngest son of Princess Caroline of Monaco and grandson of Grace Kelly, in Italy in 2015. The bride wore Armani.
Markle wore Givenchy by Clare Waight Keller to wed Prince Harry in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in 2018.
Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank married at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom on the 12th of October 2018. The bride wore custom Peter Pilotto
Monaco’s Charlotte Casiraghi, Princess Caroline’s daughter and Princess Grace’s granddaughter, tied the knot with her film producer beau Dimitri Rassam on June 29, 2019 wearing Giambattista Valli in Provence, France.
From the longest trains to the highest headdresses, here are the looks of the last century that we love the most.