History's most spectacular wedding dresses

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Sarah Biddlecombe

When it comes to celebrity weddings, there is nothing we find quite so intriguing as the bride's choice of wedding dress. From Princess Diana's giant cream creation to Audrey Hepburn's mini pink woolen dress, we continue to be endlessly enchanted by some of the most famous bridal gowns throughout history. So we decided to delve into the stories behind 12 of the most spectacular and iconic dresses throughout time...

  • Grace Kelly in iconic lace

    Grace Kelly's gown was truly a thing of wonder. The actress wed Prince Rainer of Monaco in 1956 wearing this high necked dress with a lace bodice and full skirt, accompanied by a tulle veil that measured an incredible 90 yards.

    Designed by Helen Rose, the dress is said to have influenced the gown worn by Kate Middleton to marry Prince William in 2011, plus countless others.

  • Princess Diana in embellished tafetta

    When Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles in 1981, she became the first British citizen to marry an heir to the throne in 300 years. Her magnificent, embellished tafetta dress was designed by David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, who Diana selected for the task after falling in love with a chiffon blouse they had previously designed for her.

    Featuring giant puffed sleeves, 10,000 pearls and an incredible train that measured 25 feet, the dress was so huge that the young princess could barely fit into the glass carriage that carried her and her father to the ceremony.

  • Ava Gardner in a blue and grey halterneck dress

    Ava Gardner wed Frank Sinatra in November 1951, just 10 days after his divorce to his first wife, Nancy, was finalised.

    Gardner wore a beautiful blue and grey halterneck dress with sheer sleeves and a delicate string of pearls around her neck to the ceremony, which was held at her and Sinatra's house. 

  • Amal Alamuddin in bespoke Oscar de la Renta

    When George Clooney and his fiancée Amal Alamuddin married in Venice on Saturday 27 September 2014 there was only one question we wanted answered - what did the bride wear to walk down the aisle?

    Throughout the weekend-long wedding celebrations we glimpsed Alamuddin in a variety of beautiful outfits, from a red silk Alexander McQueen dress to a sleek cream Stella McCartney jumpsuit, but it was days before she revealed the outfit she wore for the nuptials themselves.

    Luckily, her bespoke Oscar de la Renta dress was worth the wait. Made with French lace studded with hand-embroidered pearls and diamantes, with a vast, sweeping train, the gown was truly spectacular and fitting of the designer who Alamuddin described as, "such an elegant designer and such an elegant man".

  • Jacqueline Kennedy in a classic ballgown

    The wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy on 12 September 1953 was a lavish affair. The pair, who would later become the First Lady and President of the United States of America, had so many society guests at their New England ceremony that it took them two hours to shake their hands, while some 2,000 spectactors and well-wishers cheered them on.

    Jackie wore a classic ballgown by designer Ann Lowe, which had a giant, tiered hem and off the shoulder sleeves. The bride later described the dress as "clumsy" and looking like a "lampshade", and admitted she only worn it after bowing to family pressures to wear something traditional.

  • Kate Moss in sparkling Galliano

    We expected Kate Moss to wear nothing less than a spectacular gown for her wedding to Jamie Hince in 2011, and this sparkling number certainly didn't disappoint.

    Designed by John Galliano and inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby, the bias cut dress features dripping sequins that pool around Moss' feet. The gown took months to create, with the designer and the model meeting for at least four different fittings, while Kate's personalised Manolo Blahnik heels took a further five changes before they matched up to the self-confessed "bridezilla"'s demands.

  • Kate Middleton in timeless lace

    Kate Middleton's wish for her wedding gown was simple; she wanted a design that combined tradition with modernity. For this she turned to Sarah Burton, director of Alexander McQueen, to create a magical lace dress that captivated the world when she married Prince William in the iconic Westminster Abbey on 29 April 2011.

    The Duchess borrowed a Cartier tiara from the Queen to hold her tulle veil in place, while her sister Pippa Middleton helped carry her train, which measured no less than two metres and 70 centimeters. The body of the dress featured full length lace sleeves and an ivory satin bodice while the skirt was designed to echo an opening flower.

    The detailing was incredibly intricate, with lace appliqué featuring individually cut flowers handmade by the Royal School of Needlework and a string of 58 delicate gazar and organza-covered buttons up the back.

  • Audrey Hepburn in a quirky mini dress

    For her wedding to psychologist Andrea Dotti in 1969, Audrey Hepburn eschewed tradition and opted for a pale pink, funnel necked mini dress.

    The woolen dress, which was accessorised with a Space Age scarf by her close friend Hubert de Givenchy wrapped around her head like a helmet, was probably a wise choice for the wedding, which was conducted in icy Switzerland in early January.

  • Solange Knowles in an elegant caped gown

    Solange Knowles married her video director partner Alan Ferguson in a ceremony in New Orleans on 16 November 2014. T

    he cool couple decided to wear a few outfits throughout the day, with Solange arriving by bicycle in an ivory jumpsuit by Stephane Rolland before changing into this beautiful cream gown with a fitted cape by Humberto Leon for Kenzo. Speaking about designing the dress, Leon said, "We wanted to make her look like a Queen". We reckon he succeeded.

  • Elizabeth Taylor in canary yellow

    Elizabeth Taylor was married no less than eight times, and twice to fellow actor Richard Burton. For their first wedding in 1964, Taylor wore a canary yellow floor length gown with a wild floral headband that twisted in and out of her long plait.

    Speaking of her marriages, she joked, "I'm very committed... And I should be committed, too, for being married so many times."

  • Wallis Simpson in signature "Wallis blue"

    When it comes to matching a wedding dress with accessories, we could all take a leaf out of Wallis Simpson's book. The American socialite was famed for her signature "Wallis blue" eyes and the dress, straw hat and gloves she wore to marry Edward the Duke of Windsor in 1937 were all coordinated to match the exact same shade.

    Her floor length crepe silk gown with a nipped in waist, designed by Mainbocher, can be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

  • Gwen Stefani in pink ombre silk

    Given Gwen Stefani's unique style, we weren't surprised when the singer walked down the aisle in a one-of-a-kind wedding dress.

    The No Doubt star wore a custom made, silk John Galliano for Dior dress with bright pink ombre detailing to wed Gavin Rossdale in London in 2002, and loved the gown so much that she wore it again two weeks later when the pair renewed their vows in LA. Touchingly, she also carried her Grandmother’s Catholic prayer book down the aisle.

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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Features Editor at Stylist

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