Thursday, 17 June 2010

Grace Kelly: Style Icon

(Images sourced from Google Images -,,,,

One of the article structures I have yet to tackle during my degree is a review. Now although I have a module entitled ‘Fashion History’ whereby we learn all about art, architecture and of course the timeline of trends, all of which being taught by a slightly eccentric but fairly humorous lecturer, I don’t consider myself anywhere near capable of reviewing a said exhibition, gallery or art event. One, because having been taught about Egyptian clothes right through to the 60s in a matter of eight months, I don’t know nearly enough information or facts to fully evaluate, well anything in that area. And two, I am not critical enough and I think to achieve a successful, well regarded review, you need to have a critical mind (mine can be opinionated but not critical, not in the sense of critical evaluation anyway).

This was confirmed for me just a few hours ago actually. You see on my recent trip to London, I paid a visit to the Victoria and Albert museum (a place to which a visit would very much ‘compliment’ my lecturer’s teachings), to see their current exhibition of Grace Kelly – Grace Kelly: Style Icon. My thoughts were that after having viewed it, taken pictures and made notes, I could come back here and attempt to review it for you (I know you’re waiting for the Leona review too but I promise I’m working on it). Well that was until I learnt that pictures were forbidden. And once I was there, my sad little note book didn’t seem as though it could convey the beauty of the dresses with just words. And what else would I actually write about? (You see this is where a ‘How to write a review’ lecture would have come in handy).

So whilst appreciating the fine designs of such talent and the grace that they were once worn with, I made notes on each of the pieces, writing their dates and to which event they were showcased at so I could later put my faith in trusty Google.

Well I have yet to do that as this afternoon, pre-review research, I read what The Guardian, The Independent, and The Telegraph thought of the V and A’s summer display and not one of them actually spoke about the gowns and designer couture, which is what I wrongly presumed would have been the main topic of such a review. Therefore proving my lack of review writing abilities.

Also where as I would have written about the interesting history of each garment, the well presented manner that Grace Kelly’s wardrobe was displayed in, and the enjoyment that I felt whilst browsing the exhibition for an hour or so, the ‘real’ reviews from the nationals, the experts if you will, spoke of its ‘morgue’ like appearance with many headless mannequins, the ‘scraps’ and ‘fragments’ of Grace Kelly that didn’t exemplify her sex-appeal, and the poor displaying of garments and accessories that looked ‘scruffy’ and ‘scuffed’, as though they’d come from ‘a high class Oxfam shop’. Well I never!

I was shocked at how they had interpreted the exhibition and at how critical they were of it but after reading their views and getting a feel for what a professional review should be like, I did begin to agree with parts of them. Now if I were writing this for a print publication I would most certainly have to brush up on my knowledge of the actress turned princess as I only know the basics. And watching some of her films would be a must! But even with my little knowledge of the blonde beauty, thinking about it now with a slightly more insightful and professional mind, I must agree that what made Grace Kelly was her appearance. But it wasn’t just her clothes that created this polished look. It was her natural beauty, her way of always looking her best, her style, her elegance, her demeanour. All of which were created by her personality, mannerisms and natural features as well as her fashion choices.

So what the exhibition couldn’t capture was the true essence of the princess. That is what the critics were getting at, that a room full of empty garments, faceless glasses and well-worn shoes interspersed with reels of motion films (a contradiction to all the still life possessions of Kelly’s) screamed nothing other than these once worn items were a part of what made this timeless woman just that.

Although in part I agree with that statement, as a viewer I still found it fascinating to see her fashion choices, to look at 1950s garments and recognise traits and trends that can once again be deemed fashionable in 2010. To follow a timeline chart from her acting days, her bridal duties and the smooth transition between Hollywood to Royalty that she made seem so effortless. To be surrounded by the beautiful silks, chiffons and tailored suits of an all-time classic fashion icon was quite something. And that isn’t down to my course or future career choices as my mum enjoyed the exhibition just as much as I did, falling in love along the way actually with the black silk chiffon Edith Head dress worn by Grace in Rear Window.

My favourite was the Dior embroidered coral silk jersey dress she wore to DÎner des Tétes in March 1969 with an outrageous yet glamorous beaded plait headdress. Not only because I have a major love for coral but because this dress goes beyond her semi-rigid, conservative dress of tailored jersey dresses, suits and stunning ball gowns. This is a perfect example of Grace Kelly’s ability to balance classy, chic, accessible fashion whilst tastefully testing the boundaries with more unconventional outfits too.

So as much as the exhibition needed a bit of life inserted into it to escape from the slightly morbid tendencies of gazing at a deceased style icon’s wardrobe, it achieved its purpose in displaying to London the importance of this angelic, impossibly photogenic princess’ contribution to fashion.

And I must question those said newspapers as to how they would rather have seen the clothes. Other than adding a Grace Kelly head to each of the mannequins or having them modelled by 21st century look-alikes (which would be impossible due to the garments age) how else do you propose they are displayed? Unless worn, clothes are still-life, they are limp and lack movement so without the owner there to parade them teamed with signature brooches and white gloves, how would you make them less morgue like huh Guardian, Telegraph and Independent art reviewers??

And what I learnt and love most about her is the fact that beautiful, well-crafted clothes were important to her. We all know she was never short of Chanel, Dior, Bohan, or Yves Saint Laurent to choose from but once she had a magnificent garment, she would wear it again and again, regardless of whether she had been seen wearing it at a previous event, (that is why some of the items on display were a little worn and torn). This reveals her true appreciation for gorgeous couture pieces because a dress such as her High Society number should be paraded for all eyes to see again and again, not discarded because cameras had already caught her wearing it like the unappreciative celebrity world we have today.

And who can blame the girl for having worn out her infamous Hermes Kelly bag. If a woman is lucky enough to own such a rarity then wear it every day with pride.

Reviews of the exhibition -

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