Grace Kelly: Style Icon - The private view

Erin O'Connor, Joan Collins, Sir Paul Smith, Nancy Dall'Olio, John and Deborah Landis and more talked to V&A Channel at the party that opened this sumptuous exhibition about one of the 1950s most stylish actresses

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Video Transcript

David Redhead, Producer, V&A Channel

Jenny Lister, you’re the curator of Grace Kelly, Style Icon. Can you tell me a little bit about the show?

 

Jenny Lister, Curator of Grace Kelly, Style Icon, V&A

Well it tells the story of Grace’s contribution to fashion. We’re delighted that we could get the dresses over from Monaco. I was given the privilege of choosing them all in the palace. It’s really appropriate that they come to the V&A where we can put them into context with the couture collections in the gallery already. Of course we can explore the reasons why Grace Kelly has become this style icon. I think she’s one of the few people that deserve the title.

 

David Redhead

Her style was quite simple, actually. What was it that made her stand out?

 

Jenny Lister

She wore very simple, classic styles, you’re right. In the 50s it was all about these little tight-waisted shirt dresses, little twin sets. Things that were quite accessible. Things that other people were wearing as well but she wore them so well. She worked with costumes designers and really understood clothes and used them as a language.

 

David Redhead

How much of her stlye do you think comes from Hollywood and how much from herself and how much from Europe?

 

Jeffrey Kurland (Costume Designer Ocean’s Eleven, Erin Brokovich)

I like to think a lot of it came from Hollywood. I certainly hope that her following it comes from Hollywood. Certainly in the broad appeal. I think the great costumes deisgners that created work for her and clothing for her stand above the others and she certianly puts then in a pantheon.

 

David Redhead

Edith Head was Grace’s costume designer. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

 

Deborah Nadoolman (Costume Designer)

Edith Head and Helen Rose played a very important part in Grace Kelly’s life because they helped shape her look on stage and off. I think everyone knows Helen Rose designed her beautiful wedding gown. I’d also like to say she had this tremendous feeling about Edith Head and they worked closely together for many many years.

 

John Landis (Film Director)

Old Hitchcock pictures.

 

Deborah Nadoolman

For her Oscar role, which was in the Country Girl, she wanted to, she had to deglamourize herself and make herself look unattractive or plain and she did -

 

John Landis

Which for Grace Kelly, is hard to do.

 

Deborah Nadoolman

Hard to do, hard to do! With Edith Head’s help, they created a character which then won best actress that year.

 

David Redhead

One of the interesting things, very simple, her style.

 

Nancy Dell’Olio, Personality

Very simple, it was. Most of the time, elegance. It counts for simplicity. Even I think she was a complicated person, because she was very intelligent. Sometimes elegance is simple.

 

Erin O’Connor, Supermodel

I think what I love about her is that she was always so dignified. Had a quietly good taste. She didn’t really instigate fashion with an eagle-eye. She sort of just was. I think designers and costume makers flock to her because of the presence that she had. It was effervescent.

 

David Redhead

What was her best look, do you think?

 

Erin O’Connor

Oh controversial. It has to be her wedding dress. She really did look incredibly sexy in a very sort of austere, untouchable way. I think that was very clever.

 

David Redhead

What was her best look, do you think?

 

Sir Paul Smith

I personally like when she got married. Because I think sometimes she didn’t seem so relaxed in some of the photographs but in her wedding dress she looked really tranquil and very lovely.

 

David Redhead

She was brilliant with accessories, wasn’t she?

 

Sir Paul Smith

The famous bag, which has gone on to be coveted by many, many ladies around the world. Apparently it takes as long as having a baby to order a special one from Hermés. The Kelly Bag went on and on to be famous and, of course, the jewels and everything about her, really.

 

Stanislas de Quercize (President and CEO, Van Cleef and Arpels)

Why are we fascinated by a style in 2010 when the wedding was after all the past century in 1955. This is because she had the taste to spot, select and order specific timeless designs and patterns that will stand forever.

 

David Redhead

Joan Collins, as a style icon yourself, can you tell us what was it about Grace Kelly that made her one?

 

Joan Collins, Actress

I think it was her choice of tremendous simplicity but rather glamourous in a laid-back, stylish, 1950s way. She was the 1950s. She didn’t go over the top, but she was very beautiful and she had a great figure. She was just known as a very good actress and an Academy Award winner. She was not particularly known for her clothes. A lot of women dressed like that in those days but she was, because of her great beauty, she shone.

 

David Redhead

Very clever with her accessories, she had her sunglasses, she had her white gloves.

 

Joan Collins

Yeah, the white gloves, everybody had white gloves. And I don’t totally approve of the sunglasses.

 

David Redhead

What was your stlye at that point?

 

Joan Collins

Beatnik.

 

David Redhead

Bit more fun?

 

Joan Collins

Yes.

 

David Redhead

50s style is sort of making a comeback, it’s on television in the shape of Mad Men. Is that making and impact in popular fashion culture?

 

Jenny Lister

I think it is back to those clean lines and the classic styles. Also, the goddess dresses, Princess Grace wore as well. I’ve seen those on the catwalk shows. Also pastels and lace, those are in the shops again too. Grace wore these styles that were classics, they come round again. She wore them with such style I think that is why she’s become the name that everyone remembers.

 

David Redhead

It’s that 50s, 60s, slightly Mad Men look.

 

Erin O’Connor

Oh no, hasn’t that been banded around tonight? I don’t know if I want to put them together but I know that I think women today need to take that as an all-important lesson that sensuality is probably the biggest provocative power that women can have.

 

David Redhead

Is that her legacy today, do you think?

 

Erin O’Connor

I hope so. I’d like to say that it is.

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What is it that makes Grace Kelly a style icon, nearly 30 years after her premature death? We posed the question to the designers, actresses, directors, thinkers and fashionistas who gathered to celebrate the opening of this show which traces Kelly's story through her immaculate wardrobe.

This exhibition shows the spectacular wardrobe of Grace Kelly, one of the most popular actresses of the 1950s. Featuring dresses from her films including High Society and Rear Window, as well as the gown she wore to accept her Oscar in 1955, the display examines Grace Kelly's glamorous Hollywood image and enduring appeal.It  also explores the evolution of her style as Princess Grace of Monaco, from the outfit she wore to her first meeting with Prince Rainier in 1955 to her haute couture gowns of the 1960s and '70s by her favourite couturiers Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Yves St Laurent.

Grace Kelly: Style Icon - 17 April - 26 September 2010

Did the American drama Mad Men draw on Kelly style in creating its look? Perhaps. According to Erin O'Connor the prim look is back