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The Designer Diaries: Royal Weddings and Dior

Writing about the royal gowns designed by the House of Dior is the sartorial equivalent of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Designed in different eras, for very different women, Dior has run the gamut from simple to insane.

Seventies

The seventies were all about loose, bohemian women’s wear, and that translated to bridal gowns that were on the simple and less structured side for royal brides.

When Princess Caroline married her first husband, Philippe Junot, she turned to family friend Marc Bohan, who was designing for Dior. The couple married in June, 1978. There were rumors that the dress was redesigned quickly just before the event, because sketches had been leaked to the public. The high necked gown with the embroidered skirt is typical of high-end bohemian wear of the era.

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This portrait was released the day before the wedding, and I included it because braided, boho Caroline has not been seen for many years, but she definitely existed in the day.

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Lisa Halaby, as she was then, married Jordan’s King Hussein in June 1978. The King’s office engaged Dior to make the gown, but the elaborate designs they submitted didn’t suit the young Queen-to-be. She requested a modification of a Dior off-the-rack dress, pairing it with simple hair and minimal makeup, thus putting her style imprint firmly on the event.

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In 1976, when Silvia Sommerlath married King Carl Gustaf, Marc Bohan was tapped to design the gown. It had to be designed around a very detailed tiara, a family antique lace veil, and a train that had been worn by two of Carl Gustaf’s sisters. Bohan responded by providing a simple high necked gown with a gentle A-line skirt. Silvia had been sick with the flu two weeks before the wedding, and it’s possible that the resulting weight loss affected the fit of the gown. It’s always been my personal Dior disappointment.

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Fifties

When the Shah of Iran married the beautiful Soraya in 1951, they commissioned a gown that was over the top in every way. The fabric was silver lame, and the entire affair was embellished with maribou feathers and diamond accents. The insane creation was said to weigh 44 pounds, and the bride, already weakened by a bout of typhoid fever, could barely stagger around in it. It was rumored that parts of the underskirts had to be cut off during the reception, to allow the beleagured bride some movement.

At the end of the decade, the Shah was marrying his third wife, and Yves Saint Laurent was designing for Dior. Again, Iran turned to Dior for a royal wedding gown. Although elaborate, the result was more restained than the dress designed for Soraya. The bride wore a modest under-dress, with a lower scoop neck, and a coat to cover herself during the ceremony. The dress and coat were embroidered with crystals in a Persian motif. My favorite part of the ensemble was the square train, with its fur trim.

The Empress and Yves were very good friends, and he designed many of her other evening gowns.. It’s always nice to have friends “in the biz”.

Thank you for hanging on through this ride of Dior and the Royal Wedding Gown! Now go get a refreshing drink and cool off!

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