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Grace Kelly – The Patrician Hollywood Princess

March 9, 2012

Grace Kelly - Style Icon Exhibition 2012

Grace Kelly: Style Icon Exhibition 11 March 2012 – 17 June 2012 at Bendigo Art Gallery has all the hall marks of a Blockbuster– its certainly going to be a crowd pleaser and perhaps a salutary lesson for young women on personal style.

Snowden - Madame Gris

As Kristina Haugland, from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and author of a marvelous book on Grace Kelly, said at the press conference “Grace Kelly credited her early modeling experience with making her aware of how she looked to others. She was always tasteful, appropriate, ladylike, and while the starlets and sweater girls went out of their way to show off their assets, she maintained this reserve.”

This certainly did not diminish her sex appeal. Hollywood director Alfred Hitchcock described her as a “snow-covered volcano” Her very name, Princess Grace, is as much a description of a feminine quality as a real name.

Grace Patricia Kelly 1929- 1982 was the quintessential Philadelphian patrician. This iconic American star and Princess of Monaco, remains the ne plus ultra of the beautiful woman, exuding an effortless femininity, grace, charm, and confidence. Her fairytale-fantasy royal wedding foreshadowed that of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales thirty years later.

Alison - Italian Couturiers -Fontana Sisters

I'm lucky enough to have a dress from the Fontana Sisters, couturiers to Grace Kelly. Photograph Jacqueline Mittleman

Karen Quinlan, Director of the Bendigo Art Gallery worked with Melbourne’s Honorary Consul of Monaco, Andrew Cannon for several years to bring the exhibition to Bendigo in association with various stake holders including the State Government, the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Quinlan hopes those who see the exhibition will get a real sense of the woman whose style and elegance is still a source of inspiration. She says the show provides much more than just the chance to look at designer clothes including Dior, Balenciaga and Chanel. ‘‘Grace’s philosophy was that for a woman to have true style she has to know herself.” Self esteem was everything.

Alison in Dior Hat with Candice De VilleQuinlan admitted at the press conference on Friday that they had only just finished putting the finishing touches to the exhibition as unlike previous exhibition’s Bendigo Art Gallery’s curatorial staff dressed the gowns themselves; She explained how the clothes travelled. “The packing is a major undertaking; each garment travels in its own purpose-built crate, heavily padded so that the gowns maintain their shape, and the mannequins have their own crates.”

John Kelly a Philadelphia banker, nephew of Grace Kelly was also present at the media launch. John Kelly is the son of Grace’s brother John B. Kelly, a rower who won a bronze medal in the single scull at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. In my brief interview with John Kelly he said “ Unlike her sports mad family Grace didn’t seem particularly interested in sport. He saw his aunt mostly at the family home in casual clothes, sweaters, matador pants and shirt. He described his aunt as “ someone that cared and connected with people.”

Grace Kelly

My passion for anthropology has given me a strong interest in exploring the nuances of a person’s life through their possessions- their clothes and accessories. Strangely its in Grace’s accessories, hats, jewellery, sunglasses, shoes and gloves that we learn so much more about the real Grace Kelly. She didn’t mind the scruffs on her Hermes bag that became so synonymous with her that its now known as the Kelly Bag. From her shoes we learn that she had rather long and slender feet. She was quite conservative with her hats, although I did love the perfectly plain purple fine straw hat that was on display. She was not afraid to be seen wearing a favourite outfit. a second time.

The clothes only truly come to life when you see Grace Kelly still alive on film, in the sensational newsreels of the time or gliding seductively around the apartment in Rear Window or tipsily dancing with Frank Sinatra in High Society, or enjoying Cary Grant’s terror as she drives him at a reckless, ludicrous speed along a mountain road above Cannes in To Catch a Thief . Kelly’s style was exemplified in the maxim “it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it.”

Grace Kelly - Academy Awards Dress

In Hollywood, studios usually kept costumes for reuse but MGM gave Kelly many of the outfits she wore in High Society as a wedding gift. My favorite gown from this current exhibition is the cool ice green gown designed by Edith Head that Kelly wore to the academy awards when she received an Oscar for Country Girl in 1955. It was a true goddess gown that the mythical Greek Goddesses Aphrodite, must surely have had in her own wardrobe.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 12, 2012 12:32 pm

    Reblogged this on Espacio de MANON.

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