19 of the Most Unforgettable Royal Wedding Gowns

19 of the Most Unforgettable Royal Wedding Gowns
Image: Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

princess diana in carriage
Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Forget the carriage ride and the overhead shots from inside an ancient abbey filled with flowers and guests: The single most eagerly anticipated part of a royal wedding is the gown reveal. What type of dress will the bride wear? Who will design it? Will it be covered in lace, duchesse silk, or embroidery? Will she go with ivory or white -- or, gasp -- a completely unexpected and glorious color? We want to ogle, ooh, and aah over the unexpected details, and even copy the style for our own upcoming weddings -- or even for an evening gown. 

Remember the months of speculation about Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle's dresses? Of course y'all do, because we all wondered how ladies who were stylish in their everyday lives would choose for one of the most important days of their lives. It's no wonder that royal wedding dresses are fiercely guarded secrets until the public gets a peek of the bride headed to church in a car. They are instantly iconic and influential, and so beautiful -- or at least interesting -- that we look at them over and over and never get tired of them.

There's a wedding dress for every taste, and every royal watcher has a favorite -- whether it's a famous fluffy confection of a dress, a sleek a-line creation or a layered robe that's steeped in thousands of years of tradition. The most memorable royal wedding dresses have a few things in common: They are not meek, and they are not safe. They innovate in some way, whether through a genius combination of styles or expert tailoring. As soon as they're in full view, it's a very safe bet that designers and seamstresses everywhere are sketching away and making mental notes about the dress details -- so they can make their own versions to sell to eager brides-to-be who want to capture a bit of royal fairy dust for their own nuptials. 

The best dresses are also not limited to one side of the world. They've been worn to royal weddings throughout the world, and prove that there's more than one way to rock a royal gown. Here are 19 of the most memorable dresses ever worn by a royal bride.

  • Princess Diana

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    princess diana and prince charles
    Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

    Love it or laugh at it, it's iconic. Sure, it was a 20-year-old bride's idea of a wedding dress, one straight out of a fairy tale with yards upon yards of ivory taffeta -- featuring ruffled neckline, ultra puffy sleeves, and 10,000 pearls. But Princess Diana's wedding dress, with its 25-foot train, was also exactly right for the occasion. After all, she was marrying the heir to the British throne in a wedding ceremony attended by 3,500 guests and watched by millions worldwide. The dress turned out to be much more; it set the tone for wedding dresses for the entire decade.

  • Grace Kelly

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    Grace kelly and her wedding dress
    Bettmann/Getty Images; George Pimentel/WireImage/Getty Images

    Diana's dress may be iconic, but the most beloved royal wedding dress of all time is undoubtedly Grace Kelly's, the American actress turned Princess of Monaco. It's an elegant masterpiece made by MGM studios costume designer Helen Rose, with a lace bodice and covered buttons running down the front, with a silk and taffeta waist sash and skirt. Although the skirt was cut into a tulip-shaped silhouette from the front, the rarely seen back of the gown was elaborate and full, with lace and tulle details, and delicate bows. Grace topped her look with a Juliet cap adorned with pearls and silk orange blossoms.

    And like the dress, it was timeless.

  • Kate Middleton

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    prince william, pippa middleton, kate middleton
    Kirsty Wigglesworth/AFP via Getty Images

    After months of speculation, people around the world finally got a look at Kate's dress as she prepared to enter Westminster Abbey in 2011. Designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, it was instantly as iconic as Princess Diana's wedding dress and as influential, in a different way. Where Diana's dress was fanciful, Kate's was a mix of the traditional and the modern, grown up and flattering to any body shape.

    No wonder it spawned copycats immediately.

  • Meghan Markle

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    prince harry and meghan markle
    Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images

    Meghan flat-out broke with royal tradition when it came to her 2018 wedding dress, designed by Claire Waight Keller for Givenchy. In gleaming white -- as opposed to the usual ivory -- with boat neck, three-quarter sleeves, a slim fit and train, and no embellishment, it was thoroughly modern and fresh. The only traditional touch was the cathedral veil, which stretched 16 feet behind her. Like Kate's dress, it, too, has been influential for being universally flattering.

  • Princess Margaret

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    princess margaret and antony armstrong-jones
    Central Press/Getty Images

    Made from silk organza and designed by favorite royal couturier Norman Hartnell, Princess Margaret's 1960 wedding dress was the simplest ever worn by a royal bride ... until Meghan Markle came along. Beautifully tailored, it had a full ball gown skirt and a bodice that was very much of the time, resembling Christian Dior's famous 1950s day dresses.

  • Queen Jetsun Pema

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    King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and queen jetsun pema
    Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

    Hands down one of the most beautiful royals, Jetsun Pema looked especially breathtaking at her wedding to Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in 2011. No white dress in sight on this day when she became the youngest queen in the world at age 21. Jetsun wore traditional brightly colored and patterned clothing, some seriously bold jewelry, and a stunning silk brocade crown

  • Queen Soraya

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    Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlevi and Queen Soraya
    Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

    This may very well be the definition of "extra." Back when Iran had a king, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlevi married the woman who would become Queen Soraya. She wore a beyond luxurious  gown designed by Christian Dior, made with 37 years of pearl-studded silver lamé, and decorated with 20,000 marabou stork feathers. Not one for subtlety, apparently, she accessorized with  an emerald-and-diamond tiara, and a matching multi-layer necklace, earrings, and brooch -- as well as her 22-karat diamond engagement ring. Oh, and a white mink coat (not shown). After Queen Soraya died in 2011, the dress was sold for $1.2 million.

  • Queen Elizabeth II

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    queen elizabeth II wedding dress
    Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

    That train! So sheer and delicately embroidered with flowers. It's one of the highlights of Queen Elizabeth's 1947 dress, designed by Norman Hartnell. The dress was made from shiny Chinese silk and was embroidered with several types of flowers symbolizing rebirth after the end of World War II. Because fabric was still rationed, the then-princess had to save coupons in order to buy the fabric.

  • Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden

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    Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Prince Daniel
    Jonas Ekstromer - Pool/Getty Images

    When one has a spectacular, ornate, and unusual cameo and pearl diadem -- like this one to wear for a wedding -- it's best to let it shine without any competition. So when Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden married her personal trainer in 2010, the future queen wore a simple, shoulder-baring, empire waist dress with cap sleeves in ivory silk. 

  • Empress Masako

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    Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan and his future wife Masako Owada
    Imperial Household Agency/Getty Images

    When she married Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito in 1993, Masako Owada wore a Western-style white wedding dress and tiara. But that paled in comparison to the traditional Japanese robe she put on for the official wedding portrait. Richly decorated in deep colors and patterns, it is absolutely stunning, intricate, and heavy -- 12 layers of silk that can weigh up to 40 pounds. 

    Memorable indeed.

  • Diane Von Furstenberg

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    Marc Bohan stands with the bride Diane von Furstenberg and Philippe Guibourge
    Jack Nisberg/Condé Nast via Getty Images)

    Before she made the iconic wrap dresses that launched her career in the 1970s, designer Diane von Furstenberg married into German royalty with this amazing dress. It has an A-line skirt with eyelets and small ruffles along the bottom, and Diane wore a sash at the waist. The Belgian-born designer is of Moldovan and Greek heritage, and the dress seems inspired by those traditions.

  • Queen Fabiola

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    queen fabiola and king
    Hank Walker/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

    A Spanish nurse who married a Belgian king, Fabiola knew she had to come up with a dress fit for a queen -- and she did just that when she chose haute couture legend and fellow Spaniard Cristobal Balenciaga. He created a one-of-a-kind look that was simple and extremely opulent: a silk gown whose drop-down waist and neckline-turned-cape is lined with ermine, a fur associated with royalty. 

    Boom.

    Here comes the queen.

  • Queen Noor of Jordan

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    Lisa Halaby, bride of Jordan's King Hussein (2R), standing with her parents Mr. and Mrs. Najeeb
    Sahm Doherty/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

    Lisa Halaby, the American bride of King Hussein of Jordan chose a dress that was very of the time for her 1978 wedding. (She received her Arabic name of Noor afterward.) As the story goes, two Dior designers were commissioned to make her a dress, but she thought that the designs were too elaborate and asked them to make her a simpler dress to be in line with Islamic ideals. They came up with this simple silk crepe dress that may not have a long train or ball gown feel, but has its own quiet beauty. 

  • Beatrice Borromeo

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    Pierre Casiraghi and Beatrice Borromeo
    JacopoR/PierreS/GC Images/Getty Images

    Pierre Casiraghi, Princess Grace of Monaco's grandson, married Italian journalist Beatrice Borromeo in 2015, and the bride wore several dresses throughout the day. (Sounds like so much fun!) Beatrice's Grecian-inspired silk tulle gown by Armani Prive is one of our faves. It's simple but ethereal and needed nothing but a beautiful updo.

  • Princess Anne

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    princess anne and captain phillips
    Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

    This may be an unpopular opinion, but we love Princess Anne's wedding dress from 1973. She was inspired by dresses from Tudor times (the 1500s), and it shows in the highly unusual double sleeves -- with the outer one reaching below her knees -- and a high neckline. The whole thing is unique and perfectly accessorized with the same tiara that Queen Elizabeth wore to her own wedding.

  • Queen Victoria

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    queen victoria's wedding dress
    Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images

    The dress that Queen Victoria chose for marrying her cousin, Albert, was revolutionary. For one thing, she used relatively few embellishments -- just a lace overlay and some bows on her sleeves. Also, the dress was white at a time when brides usually wore a colored gown. The dress forever changed weddings -- it's the reason brides wear white.

  • Charlotte Casiraghi

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    Grace Kelly's stunning granddaughter, Charlotte Casiraghi, who is the niece of the Prince of Monaco, wore this lovely, poetic wedding dress by Gianbattista Valli in 2019. With its ruffles and bell sleeves, it is simultaneously very now and a throwback to the hippie era. It's also a subtle tribute to the wedding dress of her mother, Princess Caroline, who got married in the 1970s.

  • Princess Eugenie

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    princess eugenie and prince andrew
    Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/Getty Images

    Princess Eugenie's wedding look was extremely personal, and her dress was drop-dead gorgeous. It featured no veil and a drop-down back to show off a scoliosis surgery scar. A Peter Pilotto design, it included unusual folds at the neckline and along the back of the dress, and a truly regal train that dwarfed Kate and Meghan's. Set off with an emerald tiara, it's a look to remember.

  • Wallis Simpson

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    wallis simpson and duke of windsor
    Keystone/Getty Images

    We all know how the story goes: King Edward VII abdicated the throne after just 326 days in order to marry his twice-divorced American fiancée in 1937. The bold move was equalled by her bold choice for a dress: a slim fit gown in a color that has since been called "Wallis blue." It was a fitting dress for the occasion ... a classic and understated model for anyone who wants to keep it simple.

royal wedding meghan markle kate middleton wedding

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