Welcome our Royal Wedding Gown summer series, where we look at royal gowns from a different perspective. Sometimes it’s the little things that elevate a gown, and sometimes its the big things, like having a winter wedding so high-profile, that you trim the gown in actual fur.
Previous entries in this series include: Danish Heirloom Lace , Royal Wedding Venues, Venue Size and Scale, Historical and Artistic References, Orange Blossoms, British Embroidery, and Sparkles and Glow.
Bride: Fabiola de Mora y Aragón
Designer: Cristóbal Balenciaga
To appreciate this dress, with its throwback use of fur, you have to understand the time and the occasion. You couldn’t get a grander event than the wedding of Fabiola de Maora y Aragon and King Baudouin on Thursday, December 15, 1960. An aristocrat was marrying a King, and everyone, including the bride, knew they had to show up, and show up well.
Fabiola chose a designer from her country, Spain. Cristóbal Balenciaga set about designing a gown that met both the importance of the occasion and the season. The white silk gown showcased Balenciaga’s signature simple tailoring. The bodice was fitted, with a high neckline and three-quarter length sleeves. The skirt featured a drop waist and a full skirt. The neck and waist were trimmed with white ermine – actual ermine – which bordered the 7-meter train.
She wore the Nine Provinces Tiara, which had been given to Baudouin’s mother, Princess Astrid, when she and Prince Leopold married in 1926. Fabiola finished off the entire ensemble with elbow length gloves, and a regal air.
Bride: Maria Teresa Mestre y Batista-Falla
Maria Teresa was a wealthy Cuban exile when she met her love, Hereditary Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, while attending college in Geneva. The bride-to-be was a commoner and an exile from the New World. It was rumored that their marriage announcement was not met with overall joy within Henri’s family. Perhaps to quell the uneasiness, Maria Teresa chose Balmain, an established society couturier, to design a dress that announced “royal” as she walked into the chapel.
The couple married Valentine’s Day wedding in 1981. Balmain designed a dress made in white silk and embossed it with an intricate pattern. The public photographs of the day rather unfortunately wash out many of the details. The pattern does not appear well, and it’s difficult to discern the subtle shaping of the bell skirt and leg-o-mutton sleeves. I also miss a good photo of the train, which extended from the shoulders and flowed two meters to match the veil length. The jewel neckline, cuffs and hem, lined with fur, are visible. It sounds like a lot of detail, and it is, but it was well designed enough not to overwhelm the petite Maria Teresa.
Maria Teresa wore the Congo Diamond Tiara, brought to Luxembourg from Belgium by her mother-in-law, Belgian princess Josephine-Charlotte.
Bride: Archduchess Marie-Christine of Austria
Designer: Yves Dooms
Marie-Christine is the oldest child of Archduke Carl-Christian of Austria and his wife, who was born Princess Marie-Astrid of Luxembourg, a sister of the current Grand Duke. Although Marie-Christine is not a well-known royal, she is a granddaughter of a Grand Duke, and can boast of a long royal pedigree.
For her marriage to Count Rodolphe de Limburg-Stirum on December 6, 2008, Archduchess Marie-Christine wore a season-appropriate coat dress in thick ivory satin, with the sleeves heavily trimmed in fur. The dress was said to be designed by a Belgian design house, Yves Dooms. I can’t seem to find any information on that designer and thus can’t confirm if the fur is real or artificial. I would suspect the latter, given current sensibilities, but being a royal gown may mean all bets are off. The tailored coat extended into a plan four-meter train.
Marie-Christine wore an antique heirloom lace veil from the Habsburg family. The bride nodded to Luxembourg by donning a diamond floral tiara owned by the Grand Ducal family and wearing the same pearl earrings that her mother and her grandmother Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte wore for their wedding days.
Bride: Adélaïde Drapé-Frisch
Designer: Diane Lelys
When Adélaïde Drapé-Frisch married Marie-Christine’s brother, Archduke Christoph, I realized that both winter weddings and fur trim are Luxembourg family traits. The two tied the knot on December 29, 2012.
The bride channeled her inner Anna Karenina and wore a dramatic dress made of thick duchesse satin. The ensemble was topped with an exaggerated peplum jacket which featured an over-sized fur-trimmed neckline and cuffs. The full skirt flowed into a lengthy train. She wore the same tiara and Habsburg lace veil as her sister-in-law Marie-Christine, but despite that, and the fact that both dresses sported fur trim, they have entirely different effects.