The original royal style icon, it is unsurprising that Princess Margaret’s choice of wedding dress has gone down in the annals of fashion history, inspiring brides today with its simplicity and elegance. Perhaps the most obvious homage was made by her daughter-in-law, the Countess of Snowdon, who nodded to it in her Bruce Robbins dress for her wedding to David Armstrong-Jones in 1993, while her daughter, Lady Sarah Chatto, also opted for a simple off-the-shoulder design with no embellishment for her 1994 wedding dress. There are even echos of its simplicity in the Duchess of Sussex’s tailored, boat-necked Givenchy design.
Unlike other bridal gowns, which are frozen in the time period that they were made—such as Princess Anne’s high-neck Victoriana gown or Princess Stephanie of Monaco’s Seventies boho look—Margaret’s gown looks as refreshingly modern now as it did in 1960, when she married society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones.
She turned to royal couturier Norman Hartnell to design her gown—the same designer who had made her sister the then Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress and coronation gowns—and who had made the embellished, fairy-tale dress she wore for her 19th birthday portrait.
Rather than something that would overwhelm her petite frame, she asked for an unfussy dress, with a fitted, tailored bodice and waist, long sleeves and full-length, voluminous skirt (using 30 meters of fabric) with a small train.
There was no embroidery of flowers or other motifs on the dress—just plain, silk organza—which makes this dress standout even more versus those of other royal brides. It was refreshingly modern, and was an instant hit amongst the fashion press (Life magazine named it ‘the simplest royal wedding gown in history’).
If she opted for simplicity and elegance in her dress, she toned things up in terms of her jewelry. As is traditional, the princess wore a tiara on her wedding day, choosing one that she herself had bought, the Poltimore Tiara. It was unusual to not borrow something from the Royal Collection, but the elegant style with its graduated line of cushion-shaped and old-cut diamond clusters alternating with diamond-set scroll motifs was undeniably regal.
Originally published in Tatler.com