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The ten most iconic celebrity wedding dresses of all time

Brides-to-be have endless inspiration when it comes to finding their perfect wedding dress, from magazines to blogs and online shopping to bridal shows.

More often than not, women will look back at gowns that have stood the test of time and have captivated audiences for decades after they were first worn.

From the regal glamour of Kate Middleton‘s wedding dress to the late Princess Diana’s fairy-tale creation, certain designs have truly changed the course of bridal fashion.

Check out the list below for the most iconic wedding dresses of all time, as explained by Eleanor Thompson, author of The Wedding Dress.

1/10: Queen Victoria, 1840

Queen Victoria, 1840

Contrary to popular belief, women before Queen Victoria had worn white on their wedding day, but when the British royal chose the colour for her nuptials, she sparked a tradition that many Western cultures know today.

Queen Victoria’s gown was designed by Scottish artist William Dyce and made by her personal dressmaker Mary Bettans. Recognising her duty to the nation, Victoria helped revive the cottage industries by choosing English fabrics for her gown, including Spitalfields silk and Honiton lace.

The dress featured a décolleté bodice with a Bertha collar, drawing attention to the sweeping lines of Victoria’s bare neck and shoulders, as well as a pointed, dropped V-waist surrounded by deep pleats and a dome-shaped skirt.

Style: Romantic
Shape: Crinoline
Colour: Ivory
Hidden detail: Victoria’s veil was fastened with a wreath of orange blossom (a symbol of fertility and purity), and myrtle (representing love and domestic happiness).
Photo: © Getty Images


2/10: Princess Mary, 1922

Princess Mary, 1922

The daughter of King George V chose a fashionably loose, low-waisted gown that was reflective of the flapper-style dress of the time. Princess Mary’s dress was designed by London’s leading court dressmaker William Wallace Terry, and featured pearl and crystal embroidery.

Style: Medieval
Shape: Straight
Colour: Ivory and silver
Hidden detail: Emblems of the British Empire (the British rose, Irish shamrock, Scottish thistle and more) were embroidered on the train in silver thread.
Photo: © Getty Images


3/10: Wallis Simpson, 1937

Wallis Simpson, 1937
The twice-divorced American bride, who married King Edward VIII, chose a sublimely understated yet elegant outfit for her royal wedding.

The sleek column of the dress and corseted jacket emphasised Wallis’ slender form, while the rows of covered buttons fastened with small rouleau loops was testament to American designer Mainbocher’s meticulousness.

Style: Elegant minimalism
Shape: Column
Colour: “Wallis blue” (a pale-greyish blue especially created to match Wallis’ eyes)
Hidden detail: the zigzag seam at the centre-back of the neck suggested a healing wound, and the significance of the detail remained a secret between Wallis and her designer.
Photo: © Getty Images


4/10: Princess Elizabeth, 1947

Princess Elizabeth, 1947

When the current reigning monarch of the UK wed Prince Philip in 1947, the nation was still suffering the effects of the Second World War. Queen Elizabeth’s wedding was a fresh beacon of hope and designer Norman Hartnell bore this in mind when creating the gown.

The dress was inspired from Botticelli’s painting La Primavera, in whcih the goddess Flora wears a flower-strewn frock symbolising love and the advent of spring. The ivory satin gown was bedecked with shimmering floral garlands and flowing sprays of corn, adding to the detail of white seed pearls, sparkling crystals and glistening silver threads.

The body of the gown featured square shoulders, a sweetheart neckline, narrow long sleeves and a low pointed V waist that flowed into a full length skirt.

Style: Youthful and romantic
Shape: Soft hourglass
Colour: Ivory
Hidden detail: The 13-foot train was attached at the shoulders and embroidered with floral motifs and ears of corn.
Photo: © Getty Images


5/10: Jacqueline Bouvier, 1953

Jacqueline Bouvier, 1953

When Jacqueline wed John Kennedy, the former US president’s father made sure the nuptials were a sign of the family’s high social standing and instructed his son’s bride to wear a lavish gown.

Jacqueline’s slim fitting dress was made from 45m of ivory silk taffeta fashioned into a huge circular skirt, decorated with tiny wax flowers, and a tight bodice featuring a portrait neckline.

While the gown reflected the Kennedy family’s desire, Jacqueline was able to wear her grandmother’s rose point lace veil attached to her hair with a small tiara of lace and orange blossoms.

Style: Neo-Victorian
Shape: Bouffant skirt with tight bodice
Colour: Ivory
Hidden detail: While Jacqueline confessed to “hating” her “clumsy gown,” it achieved her father-in-law’s wish by living on as one of the most memorable dresses in bridal history.
Photo: © Getty Images


6/10: Grace Kelly, 1956

Grace Kelly, 1956

Helen Rose’s design for Grace Kelly transformed the Hollywood star into real-life European royalty. The gown was made of a fitted lace bodice and bell-shaped satin skirt, fused together with a pleated waist. The fabrics used ranged from silk tulle, pearl-encrusted rose point lace, delicate Valenciennes lace and dull luster of peau de soie satin.

Grace’s dress was more complex than it looked – underneath the sheer lace bodice was another strapless one made of silk crepe, while three layers of integrated petticoats gave the skirt its distinctive volume.

Style: Regal and romantic
Shape: Hourglass
Colour: Ivory
Hidden detail: The 1.8m chapel train featured a delicate, triangular split made from two layers of silk tulle, edged in lace and appliquéd with lace motifs.
Photo: © Getty Images


7/10: Jacqueline Kennedy, 1968

Jacqueline Kennedy, 1968

For Jackie’s second wedding to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, the former First Lady altered the image of second-time brides and wore a Valentino mini dress straight from the designer’s White Collection.

The straight, loose design featured a short, pleated skirt under a pullover style top with a funnel neck. The balloon-shaped lace sleeves were fastened with tight cuffs, and the whole bodice was decorated with scallops of appliquéd lace.

Jackie’s Valentino dress became an instant icon of her popular style and transformed the fortunes of the fashion house as well as fulfilling her original wish for a contemporary dress.

Style: Modern luxury
Shape: Straight cut
Colour: Ecru
Hidden detail: The miniskirt was considered a phenomenon in Jackie’s time, bridging the gap between old-world elegance and modernity of the sixties, and signalling that shorter lengths were also acceptable for the mature bride.
Photo: © Getty Images


8/10: Bianca Pérez-Mora Macias, 1971

Bianca Pérez-Mora Macias, 1971

The pregnant bride opted for an unconventional wedding outfit for her St. Tropez nuptials to Mick Jagger. Bianca wore a plain maxi skirt with tuxedo style jacket featuring wide lapels, pockets and a single button fastening.

At the time of her wedding, Bianca was four months pregnant and the shirt she intended to wear under her jacket no longer fit. Instead, the daring bride opted to wear nothing underneath, exposing a deep expanse of cleavage.

Style: Masculine chic
Shape: Tailored suit
Colour: White
Hidden detail: Bianca wore a hat that was trimmed around the crown with fabric roses and hung with a simple, shoulder-length tulle veil.
Photo: © Getty Images


9/10: Princess Diana, 1981

Princess Diana, 1981

Lady Diana Spencer had just left her teenage years behind when she married Prince Charles in the ultimate Cinderella dress. Her stunning gown set the standard for future wedding dresses and inspired a generation of brides.

The late Princess Diana incorporated all the details of an iconic royal gown, including frills, flounces and bows, sumptuous fabrics, jewels, embroidered lace, crinolines and corsetry and a never-ending train.

The enormous skirt was supported by layers of petticoats, while her flounce collar and puffed sleeves drew attention to the bodice.

Style: Romantic
Shape: Crinoline
Colour: Ivory
Hidden detail: A tiny horseshoe in 18-carat gold studded with diamonds was sewn into the back of the label of the dress, while a tiny blue bow was sewn into the waistband.
Photo: © Getty Images


10/10: Kate Middleton, 2011

Kate Middleton, 2011

Sarah Burton’s contemporary wedding dress for Kate Middleton reflected a new generation of the British monarchy. The slim-fitting dress showed off Kate’s slender frame, with a strapless corset overlaid with a lace bodice.

The nipped-in waist and padded hips recalled Victorian corsetry, while the detail on the lace incorporated the four emblems of the UK – the rose, daffodil, thistle and shamrock.

The dress featured a high neck which plunged into a deep V-shaped décolletage and drew attention the sweetheart neckline. Six types of lace were used to create the overlay of the skirt.

Style: Regal
Shape: Hourglass
Colour: Soft Ivory
Hidden detail: Kate wore a Cartier halo tiara that was loaned by the Queen and was the bride’s “something borrowed.” The Duchess also had a blue ribbon sewn into the hem.
Photo: © Getty Images

The Wedding Dress, which will be released on 24 February by Prestel Publishing, reveals the secrets and details behind each gown.

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