Thursday, January 12, 2012

Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess

Grace Kelly was one of the most photographed women of the 20th century.  I have long admired her elegance, her classic and impeccable style, and her amazing beauty - not to mention that I adore many of the films she is in.  When I read that there was an exhibit of her dresses at the TIFF Centre here in Toronto, Kate and I had to go and have a look.

The thing that made her stand out is what we call style.
McCall's magazine, 1955

We had a great time at the exhibit - the dresses, especially the ones from the 1950s, were amazing and it was fun to see letters and telegraphs from Alfred Hitchcock among others.  My only disappointment was when I got home and Googled more information about the dresses and realized that only a small part of the original Victoria and Albert Museum show in London from earlier this year was brought over (for a comprehensive blog post on the V & A exhibit see here).  Sniff, sniff.  While we loved what we saw, it was disappointing that there were such a small selection of dresses especially from her movie period. Also surprisingly they did not put mirrors on the other side of the dresses so the back side could be viewed.   Despite these issues we really enjoyed seeing the details, the materials, and the workmanship of these famous outfits.

The exhitibit was divided into Grace Kelly the actress, Grace Kelly the bride, and Princess Grace of Monaco.

They had this gorgeous soft green dress and the matching coat (designed by Edith Head) that Grace wore to the Oscars in 1955 when she won Best Actress for The Country Girl.

Forever Young Information

Have you seen the movie High Society?  It is a gem and one that Kate and I like to watch and re-watch.  The swimming cover-up, also designed by Edith Head, from this movie was in the exhibit.  The draping across the front is so elegant and suits Grace Kelly's role in the movie as she is supposed to be a bit of a goddess.

Style Matters

There was a copy of the dress that Grace wore when she first met Prince Ranier at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955.  Apparently the electricity had gone out at the hotel where Grace was staying and she was unable to have any of her dresses pressed so she wore the floral one (in the photo below) which had been given to her by McCalls after a modelling job she had done for them.

Forever Young Information
This is the 1954 pattern that was used to make her dress.  It makes you feel like you could wear a Grace Kelly look-alike dress if you wanted to (it is pretty wild though, so I'm not sure I would really want to).

Vintage Patterns Wiki

They also had the dress that Grace wore when she and Prince Ranier announced their engagement.  Both Kate and I thought this dress was gorgeous - probably the prettiest in the show.  It had lovely details, like the cuffs on the sleeve, and the belt made of the same material with lines sewn along it, and the soft folds at the waist.

Grace added a scarf at the neck, a brooch, some sunglasses, and her famous Kelly bag and she was all set to meet the press.

Forever Young News

There was also the lovely champagne-coloured lace dress she wore for her civil wedding ceremony.  

Disco Nap

It had the prettiest edging along the hem with scalloped lace against the fabric.

Disco Nap

The famous wedding dress designed by Helen Rose, was an exact replica since the original was too delicate to travel from Philadelphia.

Forever Young Information
The view we had of the dress was of the back and I hadn't realized there were bows down the skirt with an insert of lace since you usually see the front in the wedding photographs.


And finally there was the gray Dior suit she wore when she departed on her honeymoon.

The Dior suit was so elegant - just simple lines with a fitted jacket and three-quarter length sleeves.


They also had many of her dresses and suits from her later years some of which were beautiful, like this Chanel suit.


some were very princessy (and frankly look better in this photo than they did in person),

Disco Nap

and some were a little on the wonky side if you ask me - like this one.


We loved seeing her famous Kelly bag in a beautiful milk chocolate shade along with some of her luggage.

While I recognized many of the dresses on display from historical photographs, there was only one dress that I remember from newspaper articles at the time that it was worn.   It was the purple dress (in the photo below) that Grace wore when attending a fund-raising concert at the Royal Opera House in London in March, 1981 shortly after Prince Charles and Diana Spencer announced their engagement.  It was the first time that Grace Kelly met Diana Spencer and only a year and a half before Grace died.


I do think Grace's style was better suited to the fashion of the 1950s than the 1960s and 70s.  It wasn't just that she was getting older, but rather I think her style suited the elegant dresses from the earlier time period.

If I could have made a dress request, it would have been for the gorgeous black-and-white dress designed by Edith Head that Grace wore in the 1954 movie Rear Window. To me that dress is the height of elegance and it suited her perfectly.  I would have loved, loved, loved to have seen it in real life.

These are just a few of the dresses at the exhibit - some of the ones that I liked best.  Did one of them stand out as a favourite for you?

The exhibit is still on until January 22, 2012 so you have a few days left to go and see it if you also are a Grace Kelly fan and are interested in seeing a wardrobe that has stood the test of time.


  1. She was very beautiful. Those outfits are amazing - especially the wedding dress!
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  2. Grace Kelly was blessed with stunning beauty and the photos you posted reminded me how elegant and pretty dresses were back in the fifties.
    Thanks a lot!

  3. One of my very favourite actresses and I love the story of her life (minus the ending, of course...)

    She was the real-life fairy-tale.

  4. Thank you for sharing all this information! Fascinating! She was such a beautiful woman with amazing style. I have to agree with you on the black and white dress. Lovely!

  5. Thank you for such a wonderful review! This exhibition is coming to Bendigo in Victoria (Australia) in March and I can't wait to see it now.

  6. Beautiful. Elegant. Great post since I won't be able to go I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  7. What a great post. I love Grace Kelly! Rear Window is my very favorite Hitchcock movie, and her wardrobe in it was so wonderful, and it is a big part of the movie!

  8. Yes, grace Kelly was very beautiful, and I love her very much, she is my favorite actress! Thanks for your sharing!

  9. Your posts have a great sense of style as your blog title!!!Love it!!

  10. A wonderful retrospective, Grace.