If you’re lucky enough to visit London before the 26th of September 2010, then you can go and see the exhibition of Grace Kelly’s wardrobe currently being held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. For the rest of us, this lush volume produced for the show will have to do.
Grace Kelly evolved from dutiful Philadelphia daughter to model, to actress, to princess. Throughout she developed and maintained a cool, elegant sense of style that has been emulated by countless women ever since. Her clothes were sophisticated – beautiful examples of both American and French design; alongside many off-the-peg items in her earlier years.
Grace Kelly Style examines the clothes themselves as well her personal sense of style – this was not a look manufactured by Hollywood, but a very individual projection of self. It is chronological, with two page insets that feature specific designers such as Helen Rose, Christian Dior and Madame Gres. Lavishly illustrated, this is a book to lose yourself in – my only quibble (and a minor one) would be its size. Given the wealth of pictorial material available, this is a relatively short book – only 112 pages. However, the pictures that are included are spectacular, from the striking cover image to photos from Time and Vanity Fair; as well as large number of professional portraits from her time in Hollywood and in Monaco.
This is not a book for those looking for an in depth insight into Grace Kelly the person. It is unashamedly about the wrapping rather than the content – although it does, of course, allude to the personal attitudes and beliefs that influenced how she showed herself to the world. And at a time when we are bombarded by pink, one-dimensional, cartoon princesses, it’s refreshing to be reminded of a princess who was something more; a woman who was an accomplished, academy award winning actress; not just a girl in a pretty frock waiting to be swept off her feet.
Kristina Haugland is Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and author of Grace Kelly: Icon of Style to Royal Bride (2006). Jenny Lister is a curator of Textiles and Fashion at the V+A. She co-curated the exhibition ’60s Fashion’ and co-edited the accompanying book, Swinging Sixties (V+A 2006). Samantha Erin Safer received her masters from the Royal College of Art and was formerly Assistant Curator of the Fashion and Textile Museum. She contributed to Lucile Ltd. (V+A 2009) and is co-author of My Favourite Dress (2009).