Home / Fashion / Grace Kelly: Princess, Mother, Actress, Style icon. Could she have been any more fabulous?

Grace Kelly: Princess, Mother, Actress, Style icon. Could she have been any more fabulous?

Grace Kelly for Life Magazine

I adore Grace Kelly…

Princess Grace Kelly - Boating

image via Harper’s Bazaar

I don’t know how or when it started – I can’t remember the first time I saw her but I suspect it had something to do with driving our mother crazy and her needing some quiet time. She probably plonked my sisters and I in front of Bill Collins’ Midday Movie and perhaps that particular day it happened to be the 1956 film High Society. It would very quickly become my all-time favorite movie, and Grace Kelly, my favourite ‘pretty lady from the movies’.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it, but I do know most of it word-for-word along with which dresses I wish were mine, and of course, which leading man I would want to marry in the end.

High Society

High Society – Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly & Frank Sinatra

As I got older I realized that Grace wasn’t just an incredibly talented and beautiful actress (she won an Academy Award for her role in The Country Girl)  – she was also an important fashion icon. Her elegance set her apart from the likes of Elizabeth Taylor who were mostly about showing off boobs and hips (and boy did Taylor have her fair share of both!).  Grace preferred a more modest, feminine, and sophisticated approach to her style. She once said:

‘If I wear anything dramatic, I become lost.’

Grace Kelly for Life Magazine

Grace Kelly – cover of Life Magazine, wearing the gown designed by Edith Head that she wore to the 1955 Academy Awards (Image Phillipe Halsman/Magnum Photos)

She rocked the Twin Set, and nobody did the white glove quite like Grace Kelly. It is said that when she went anywhere (anywhere) she wore white gloves. This is the kind of level of sophistication and class we are talking about – someone whose outfit wasn’t finished until her gloves were on.

How utterly fantastic.

She regularly wore Chanel, Balenciaga, Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent. She even made the Hermès Sac à dépêches bag so famous the designers changed it’s name to the ‘Kelly Bag’.

I’d love one too if I had a few spare grand lying around.

Grace Kelly - White Gloves and Hermès Kelly Bag

Grace Kelly became well known for her white gloves and Hermès bag.

Although considered a pivotal trend setter and given it seemed more important to people to know what she was wearing rather than where she was going; when was she asked about her style Grace was quoted as saying:

‘I think it’s important to see the person first and the clothes afterwards.’

Given my adoration, I had an overwhelming sense of excitement when I heard that the Bendigo Art Gallery would be hosting the world-renowned collection of her dresses, costumes and jewelry this year (2012). Grace Kelly – Style Icon has been organised through the Victoria & Albert Museum London and the Grimaldi Forum, Monaco and is in Bendigo until the 17th June (2012).

Exhibition program cover & book from Grace Kelly: Style Icon - Bendigo Art Gallery

Exhibition program cover & book from Grace Kelly: Style Icon – Bendigo Art Gallery

I can’t describe how I felt while visiting the gallery. It was a mix of over-emotion at the sadness of her early death, the excitement of seeing the stunning costumes from her movies including High Society (I had to be told to step back from the glass); as well as numerous outfits worn from her early career as the Hollywood actress, right through to her later life as Princess and wife of Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Grace Kelly Exhibition

A sneak peak of the exhibition – image by Harper’s Bazaar

There was less than an inch of glass separating me from all of these incredible pieces including for me, the ultimate in design, her bridal gown. Although it was only a replica as the original is said to be too fragile to travel due to poor storage (gasp!), it was heavenly to see the replica detail up close.  I had always wanted to use her gown as inspiration for my dress if I was to marry – but sadly, Katherine Middleton got in early and now sleeves and lace are everywhere! I was actually at a friend’s wedding at the same time as the Royal Wedding. I managed to get a SMS to my sister Alisha about the time I knew Kate would be arriving at the church. I had a very bad feeling. It read:

“Please don’t tell me it looks like Graces’! Please!”

To which she replied: “OK. I won’t…”

I was (and am still) devastated.

Katherine Middleton Bridal Gown

Isn’t it enough that she got to marry a Prince? Did she have to take my bridal gown inspiration too? (Image Sipa; Reuters/Landov via People Magazine)

Being in the middle of designing new pieces for sorella & me, I couldn’t help but sketch some little features of Grace’s dresses while I was at the exhibition, to tuck away for future inspiration.  Only having a pen handy in my purse, I got a very quick ‘tut-tut’ from the gallery supervisor who handed me a pencil.  Apparently pens are no longer allowed in art galleries! Who knew?!

Grace Kelly & Frank Sinatra - High Society

My favourite dress from High Society, on display at the exhibition. The intricate embroidery and soft chiffon was breathtaking. (image MGM/The Kobal Collection/Eric Carpenter)

I did three laps of the whole collection – so I was completely enthralled in dream-state for just under 2 hours. And my mind was still drifting in and out of Hollywood cocktail parties, movie sets, and royal weddings for the 2 hour drive back to Melbourne.

Given my clear infatuation with Old Hollywood (you can find me any rainy Saturday afternoon on the couch watching films from the 1950’s), it’s not hard see where the inspiration for sorella & me‘s photoshoot came from. The image below particularly encapsulates the Hollywood glamour that gives me goosebumps. The beautiful Art Deco home we used for the shoot has a juicy history of VIP guests, including the handsome Gregory Peck who stayed in the home during filming of his 1959 film ‘On the Beach’.  The home has more recently been used for numerous Australian television and film sets, and Kate Ceberano shot her film clip for her cover of Etta James’ At Last around the pool!

sorella & me organic maternity sleepwear

If you live in Victoria or down this way for a holiday I really recommended a visit to the gallery for the Grace Kelly exhibition before it closes on June 17.  Even if you aren’t a big fan of Grace, just a love of fashion and design will have you enthralled and glad you made the trip. They certainly don’t make dresses like these anymore.

If you can’t make it to the gallery, be on the watch for a film currently in production on the life of Grace. It apparently stars Nicole Kidman as the leading lady, and is sure to feature costumes replicating Grace’s incredible wardrobe.

~ anna

Do you have a favourite actress whose style you just love?

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