Friday, 23 April 2010

Amazing Grace

Was there ever a person more aptly named than Grace Kelly? From a very young age, it was obvious that she was in possession of an extraordinary beauty which would mark her out from the crowd. Throughout her life, from Hitchcock muse and Academy Award winning actress, to her marriage to Prince Rainer of Monaco and her subsequent reign as the beloved Princess Grace, she was the epitome of style and elegance.

Princess Grace was to the 1950’s and 60’s what Princess Diana would be to the 1980’s and 90’s. Indeed, there are many parallels to be found between these two ill-fated beauties. Both women became hugely famous as royal spouses, while struggling to cope with the consequences of their fame. Grace and Diana both exuded a rabbit-in-the-headlights type of innocence, and it was this quality (real or perceived) which catapulted them to the status of legends, modern-day deities, after their untimely deaths.

Grace and Diana would become the most famous and most photographed women of their day, and were greatly admired for their sense of style. They were trend-setters, their style much copied but never equaled. There have been many exhibitions featuring clothes worn by Diana, including a permanent display in Kensington Palace. However, we have not had an opportunity to appreciate the magnificent wardrobe of Princess Grace … until now.

Grace Kelly – Style Icon opened at the V&A last week. This exhibition celebrates Kelly’s unique style by showcasing her spectacular collection of clothes. Opening night attendees included her son Prince Albert of Monaco who said “My mother treasured her clothes and would have been delighted to have them exhibited at the V and A”.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is the undisputed home of fashion history. In 2007, it hosted The Golden Age of Couture exhibition, which celebrated 1940’s and 1950’s fashion in Paris and London, with particular emphasis on the emergence of the Dior fashion house. I lost count of the number of times I saw this exhibition – it was probably akin to the number of times other people saw the film versions of Mamma Mia or Sex and The City. And so, it wouldn’t be an over-statement to say I was bursting with excitement yesterday as I hot-footed it to the V&A, with a reluctant husband in tow, to take in the museum’s latest offering.

You can imagine my surprise and indignation when I got to the top of the queue at the admissions desk to be confronted with a little sign which read: “All sessions for Grace Kelly – Style Icon booked out for today.” Apparently, the exhibition was proving hugely popular with American tour groups (go figure!) – the foyer of the museum was swarming with little old ladies, with languid American drawls, wearing name-tags, elasticated pants and sensible shoes. I thought the volcanic ash had kept all the tourists away!! These were obviously very determined ladies, who didn’t allow the little matter of a flight embargo to come between them and their beloved Grace Kelly! And so, dear readers, although I cannot give you any insight into the exhibition, I can offer this little nugget of advice – make sure you book in advance ... and be nice to the little old American ladies you are sure to meet there!

Grace Kelly – Style Icon
Victoria & Albert Museum
17 April -26 September 2010

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