Everyone knows a royal wedding is its own kind of fashion show.
The setting is grand, filled with A-list celebrities and royal family members sitting front row, the walk is long, the paparazzi are ready, and the gown, the gown should tell a story, not just of the bride and her sense of style, but also of the tradition and family legacy she’s about to become apart of.
Most royal brides must adhere to a strict set of rules when designing the dress they’ll get hitched in. The garment must always be approved, and usually, it’s made in a more modest, conservative style. When Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle this weekend, a few traditions will be ignored in favor of modernizing the whole affair and fashion experts think the bride’s gown will play a big role in the couple’s desire to “change with the times.”
We don’t know who’s crafting Markle’s dress, or what style she might choose, but we do know she has plenty of inspiration in the women who have walked before her.
Here are some of the most memorable, and beautiful, royal wedding dresses in history.
Princess Sofia of Sweden
Princess Sofia of Sweden, Duchess of Värmland showed a bit of skin on her wedding day. The former reality star wed Prince Carl Philip in a stunning ceremony in Sweden in 2015. Princess Sofia’s gown was made by a Swedish designer, Ida Sjöstedt, and the new royal opted for a lace neckline, A-line silhouette, and an empire waistline. She also managed to make sure her small back tattoo was visible.
Princess Claire of Luxembourg
Princess Claire of Luxembourg went Haute couture for her big day, choosing to don an Elie Saab dress made of ivory-silk. The gown was embellished with Chantilly lace floral motifs and featured a three-foot-long train with baroque flower detailing.
Kate Middleton proved she had a keen eye for style when she wore Alexander McQueen, a British designer, for her wedding to Prince William in 2011. The Victorian-inspired dress had a nine-foot-long train — that sister Pippa Middleton famously helped maneuver down the aisle — and a handmade lace applique that covered the bride in flowers, including roses, thistle, daffodils, and shamrocks.
Queen Letizia of Spain
When Queen Letizia of Spain walked down the aisle 13 years ago, all anyone could talk about what the royal’s wedding dress. A Manuel Pertegaz creation, the gown sported a showstopping structured collar, cuffs, and a hem embroidered with real gold. But what truly took spectators’ breath away was the bride’s train, a 14-foot-long laced masterpiece also covered in real gold.
Before she became Princess Diana, Lady Diana Spencer was already beloved by the British people. But when she married Prince Charles in 1981, she caught the eye of the fashion world as well. Diana’s wedding gown was the most closely guarded royal secret at the time and for good reason. The jaw-dropping, intricate ivory taffeta gown embroidered with 10,000 pearls and sporting a 25-foot-long train was worth the wait when it debuted during the nuptials.
Grace Kelly got her own real-life fairytale when the actress married Prince Rainer III of Monaco. The Hollywood starlet used her big day to serve an iconic bridal look, one that’s still talked about over 60 years later. The dress was stitched by Academy Award-winning costume designer Helen Rose featured a lace bodice, a pleated silk faille skirt, and Juliet cap detailed with lace and pearls.