The Epitome of Grace
“She was ladylike
icy Olympian heights
and untouched autonomy
yet, beneath it all,
unblushing heat and fire.”
While buzz has been building for some time on the upcoming exhibit of Grace Kelly’s clothes and accoutrements at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum next month, there is, at long last, some wonderful remnants of memorabilia to covet. The collection will feature Kelly’s Philadelphia society days to her Hollywood stardom, to her reign as Monegasque princess.
I doubt there would be any disagreement on the breathtaking glamor or inescapable beauty of this woman; she certainly walked in her own spotlight.
It’s been said that the classical beauty and stunning self-possession that propelled Grace Kelly into the Hollywood pantheon, onto the Best-Dressed List, and ultimately to Monaco’s royal palace were more than captivating—they were completely genuine. There is no dispute, that her iconic style endures to this day inspiring fashion from Hermès to Tommy Hilfiger to Mad Men’s costumer Janie Bryant.
At the 27th Annual Academy Awards, Kelly wore a sea-foam satin gown with matching coat (not shown) by famed costume designer Edith Head. Two yellow roses were tucked into Kelly’s loose chignon.
Kelly modeling Edith Head’s exquisite creation in glorious sea-foam color for the cover of Life magazine, 1955. An Interesting note of trivia: Kelly had worn the same ensemble to the film’s premiere months earlier, a sensible recycling of outfits that would be inconceivable today.
The V&A exhibition will showcase more than fifty of Grace Kelly’s outfits, as well as hats, jewelery and the original Hermès Kelly bag, which was named after her. Also included:
* Dresses from her films, including High Society and Rear Window
* The gown she wore to accept her Oscar in 1955
* The lace ensemble worn for her civil marriage ceremony to Prince Rainier in 1956
* Thirty-five haute couture gowns from the 1960s and 70s by favored designers: Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Yves St Laurent.
Grace Kelly with Monaco’s Prince Rainier III pictured here in classic lace, this time at the celebration of her civil marriage to the prince. The wedding was a 40-minute civil ceremony that took place in the Palace Throne Room of Monaco on April 18, 1956, and was broadcast across Europe.
This close-up of the civil-ceremony dress displays the exquisite detailing that went into Kelly’s clothes. One of Kelly’s style virtues was that she appreciated and wore designs for their quality, not their cost, and wouldn’t turn up her nose at a gown lacking couture pedigree.
The main ceremony, the following day, features Kelly in a truly incredible full wedding gown of lace and silk faille. Her entire trousseau was designed and sewn by the costume masters at MGM. Designed by Academy Award–winning Helen Rose, the dress was worked on for six weeks by three dozen seamstresses.
The wedding gown was made from antique Valenciennes rose point lace, twenty-five yards of silk taffeta and ninety eight yards of tulle. Her veil was covered with appliquéd lace lovebirds and thousands of seed pearls. The MGM wardrobe department made the wedding dress as a gift from MGM.
Photos: Grace Kelly (Kobal Collection)
Grace Kelly in profile, (Random)
Grace Kelly holding her Oscar the night she won best actress for The Country Girl at the 27th Annual Academy Awards, in 1955. Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Close up of the dress designed by Edith Head for the Academy Awards, 1955. Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Life Magazine cover, 1955 featuring Grace Kelly as Best Actress in the 27th Annual Academy Awards. Life Magazine.
Grace Kelly for Life magazine wearing the gown designed by Edith Head that she wore to the 1955 Academy Awards. © Philippe Halsman/Magnum Photos.
Prince Ranier and Grace Kelly at Civil Ceremony, April, 1956. Snap/Rex Features/courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Close up of detailing of Kelly’s Civil Ceremony dress. Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Wedding Photos (2) (Random)
The cover of the Victoria & Albert exhibition’s catalogue features Kelly in an Oleg Cassini dress that she wore at a shoot for Cosmopolitan. The Estate of Erwin Bluemfeld, 2009/courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.