Perhaps the most famous wedding gown in Hollywood history, the Helen Rose design is a fine synthesis of romance, innocence and glamour. Elizabeth Taylor was but 17-years old when she played the role of Kay in Father of the Bride, 1950. Soon after production wrapped she married Conrad Hilton, Jr., the first of her eight marriages.
Who’s designing Kate Middleton’s wedding gown and what’s it look like?
Seraphic Secret has no insider information, but we suspect the gown will be, er, white, elegant, traditional and dignified. No fashion forward statements for the future royal—which is as it should be.
Wedding gowns hold a powerful grip on the imagination. A wedding gown signals the end of one life and the beginning of another; the passage from girlish concerns to the responsibilities of womanhood. It is the ultimate expression of romance, the one time in a woman’s life when she gets to dress like a princess.
Even in the fashion world where the new and novel tend to get the most attention, it is the wedding gown that ends the runway show, the bridal ensemble as pièce de résistance.
In Hollywood’s Golden Age, the 1930’s, glamorous wedding gowns reached the heights of design.
It should be noted that the virginal white wedding gowns featured in black and white movies were never white. The fabrics were either off-white, pastel blue or pink. The film in use at the time would make a white gown shine like a planet, creating a blinding glare.
Let’s take a look at a few of Seraphic Secret’s favorite wedding gowns by some of Hollywood’s most talented costume designers.
Frances Dee in The Strange Case of Clara Deane, 1932. Designer: Travis Banton. Inspired by classical Greece this gown is made of ivory satin, white tulle, edged with pearls and brilliants. Because movies costumes are designed for movement, wedding veils received particular attention from designers. The veil on Dee’s gown will trail after her like a cloud.
Constance Bennett in Our Betters, 1934. Designer: Hattie Carnegie, born: Henrietta Kanengeiser. Constance Bennett, one of the most glamorous leading ladies of the thirties wears a silk, bias cut gown with long sleeves and high neck. So form-fitting is the fabric that to achieve the desired silhouette, Bennett is sans underwear.
Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night, 1934. Designer: Robert Kalloch. Here’s a perfect example of a wedding gown designed purely for the movies. The gown is actually quite plain except for the spray of flowers at the neckline, all the camera sees as Colbert walks down the aisle. Again, the veil is the focal point of the ensemble, emphasizing the moment when Colbert flees the altar and the chiffon veil, gorgeously back-lit, trails behind her in a thrilling long shot.
Marian Marsh in The Black Room, 1935. Designer: Robert Kalloch. The gown is actually pink satin. Marsh plays a Viennese bride and the script calls for uber romance. Kalloch delivers with brilliant details: floral appliques, delicate lace, tiny seed pearls, hooped skirt and a tantalizing off-the-shoulder bodice.
Miriam Hopkins in The Old Maid, 1939. Designer: Orry-Kelly. The period detail on this Civil War era gown is jaw-dropping. Note the multiple layers of fabrics—silk, lace, chiffon. The unexpected slyly wicked corset and the flowered tiara create a complex but enchanting gown.
Source: Those Glorious Glamour Years, by Margaret J. Bailey.
Mina Avrech, my mother, z’l, was not a movie star. But when she married my father in 1943, she borrowed a lovely gown from a wealthy relative and carried off the look like a Hollywood star. Note the beautifully proportioned crown that gently references the Italian Renaissance. Designer: Unknown.