The Victoria & Albert Museum is putting on an exhibit of Grace Kelly as a style icon. Several of her most recognizable gowns from movies like Rear Window and High Society are part of the exhibit, as well as later dresses she wore as Princess of Monaco. In total 40 gowns are on display along with some of her gloves, bags, sun glasses and jewelry, so basically the full gamut of the glamorous 50s woman.
It sounds like every small girl’s clichéd dream. Yet there is a steely minimalism about many of Kelly’s costumes, and her modus operandi, that brings respect. Her slim pale-green gown, which she wore to receive her Oscar for The Country Girl, is there, under a matching satin evening coat. She wore the same dress for the premiere, and on the cover of Life magazine, an economy that would horrify the 21st-century actress.
Fast was never a word that applied to Kelly. She was the un-Marilyn, the other blonde, who appeared to have less fun while getting away with a great deal under her patrician exterior. At a thin 5ft 7in, she contrasted with the va-va-voom Hollywood hourglass. A cream lace dress by Oleg Cassini (a favourite of Jackie Kennedy and a boyfriend of Kelly) shows that the actress had a 21in waist, according to the exhibition’s curator, Jenny Lister.
Next is the little black frock from Rear Window. Hitchcock fans will recognise the pleated silk organza number, with translucent cap sleeves, that pops up, darkly, “at the pivotal point in Rear Window when Kelly starts to believe they are watching a murderer”, Lister says.
I love that little black dress. (I have a thing for pleats, especially really teeny organza ones.) My favorite, though, is the gown she wore during the drunk scene in High Society. I love the embroidery but mainly I just really love that movie.