Princess Charlène Opens Grace Kelly Exhibition
Princess Charlène of Monaco has been in Australia this week, to officially open the Grace Kelly: Style Icon exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria.
Arriving in Melbourne earlier this week, the Princess spent some down-time out of the public eye which included a private dinner with the Lady Mayoress of Melbourne at the Melbourne Town Hall on March 9th.
The same day, Princess Charlène paid a visit to the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC), where she was given a brief tour and got to chat with some little ones and their parents who were having a swim class. It is not the first time that the Princess has visited MSAC – she competed in the 2002 FINA World Cup Swim meet which was held at MSAC that December, in which she won the 100m Women’s Backstroke.
Then yesterday, it was time for Charlène to make the hour and a half car ride north to Bendigo for the purpose of her visit – the opening of the exhibition on her late mother-in-law. Wearing a custom-made dress by an Australian designer (more about the Princess’ fashions later today), Princess Charlène was greeted by a crowd of over 700 upon arrival at the Bendigo Art Gallery.
Accompanied by Victorian Premier Ted Ballieau and Prince Albert II’s first cousin, John Kelly (nephew of Princess Grace), the Princess toured the exhibition and delivered a speech in which she praised Princess Grace’s sense of style, “Her beautiful style was a reflection of her natural elegance, taste and character…it remains an inspiration to all across generations and culture.”
The exhibition, which opened today March 11th, will run until June 17th.
I was able to head up to Bendigo and view the Grace Kelly exhibition today. The Bendigo Art Gallery is a charming little gallery a short walk away from the Sacred Heart Cathedral, and on the same street as the Queen Elizabeth Ova, just outside the main city centre.
The first segment of the exhibition focuses on Grace’s acting career (Grace – The Actress) – dresses from High Society, The Swan (the white lace dress which was loaned from the V&A Museum in London specifically for the Bendigo exhibition) and Rear Window all feature alongside movie stills. The seafoam evening gown and coat (love!) worn to the 1954 Academy Awards takes pride of place next to the Princess’ own Oscar. The dress and coat are displayed on two seperate mannequins, unlike in Canada, and the dress is angled to allow the viewer to see the ties which make up the back of the gown – exquisite work by Edith Head.
Moving into the second segment, Grace – The Bride, the centre of the first room focuses on the ‘shirtwaist dress’ (a word used heavily throughout the descriptions around the exhibition) Grace wore when her engagement to Prince Rainier III was announced, accompanied by one of her original Hermès Kelly bags. A series of photographs from the couple’s first meeting in France lines the wall, with a replica of the black floral dress in the display opposite.
Also in this room are several of the outfits the bride-to-be wore in the lead-up to her wedding, beginning with the navy blue dress and coat worn when arriving in Monaco. My first reaction to the arrival dress was, “Where’s the hat?!” Outloud. Yes, the gigantic white hat which kept the Monegasques from seeing their future Princess’ face is not part of the exhibition. Jess was sad. The fellow next to me joked the hat was back at his house.
Then, it’s on to the centrepiece of the exhibition – the gown. Grace’s wedding gown. Because of age and fragility, a replica of the wedding gown is shown in the exhibition (the real gown is tucked away safely in Philadelphia museum’s storage facility). Seeing the gown in person is so much better than seeing it in photographs – the intricate detailing of the lace packs more of a punch when you are less than a metre away, seperated by glass. Personally, while I find Grace’s wedding gown one of the best royal wedding gowns ever, if I had to make a choice between the gown worn for the religious ceremony and the suit worn for the civil ceremony, the civil ceremony would win, hands down, every time. While everyone else went straight for the gown, I was drawn like a magnet to the civil ceremony outfit. The skirt, the jacket, the little hat. Grace Kelly-becomes-Princess Grace to a T. It’s probably a good thing that all the pieces were behind glass, otherwise I may have not been able to restrain myself from attempting to vacate the premises with the civil outfit non-subtley tucked into my purse.
This segment ends with a 20-odd minute long video, showing the three stages of Grace’s life featured in the exhibition – actress, bride, princess. You’ve got silent clips for her movies, her short Oscar acceptance speech, the engagement and wedding ceremonies, and Prince Albert and Princesses Caroline and Stephanie peeling potatoes on a yacht.
The final segment is again split in two and showcases the style of Princess Grace. Outfits from Balenciaga and Dior are present, respresenting both the Princess’ daytime wear and her evening wear. Gowns she wore in the 1970s are distinguishable immediately, if not for their brighter colours, then most definately by the frill that runs as a hem around the bottom. This segment also has the jewel case – mostly produced by Cartier, there is earrings, a necklace, ring and braclet. Throw in a diamond and pearl diadem and a gold, diamond and ruby Monaquese coat of arms brooch and you’ve got a complete set. Oddly enough, Grace was never seen wearing the diadem on show in the exhibition, so I question why it was included in a Grace exhibition. But hey, who’s going to complain too much when you’ve got sparkly things laid out in front of you?
Other gowns include the purple tafetta, typically ’80s number the Princess wore in London when she met with the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer – which looks much better in real life than in photographs, but still not one of my favourites by a long shot; the white and black panelled gown worn for a photoshoot, which looks much better in photographs than in person; the Palace stairs gown – which I disliked up close as it there is too much ‘in-your-face’ going on with the skirt, the tulle and the flower; and a pale blue chiffon maternity gown. A special display is set aside for the Princess’ hats, gloves, shoes, sunglasses and handbags.
The exhibition ends with gigantic proportions – I almost died when I rounded the corner of the last display and saw the gigantic puff ball that is the pink Centenary Ball evening gown Grace wore in 1966. How Grace was able to walk, sit, stand in that gown is beyond me – I don’t doubt that six people could fit under its skirt!
Overall, the exhibition is a lovely showcase of the style that made Grace, Grace. The simple, similarly cut outfits worn in the lead-up to her marriage highlight the 1950s essence which evokes memories of Grace Kelly. The progression of the exhibition allows you to see the transformation she went through as she got more comfortable in her role as Princess of Monaco, allowing herself to experiment with different designs and colours – bolder as we got into the 1960s and 1970s and into the Parisian haute couture.
Grace Kelly: Style Icon? Without a doubt. And very few others, from the past and in the present, will ever be able to create such a style and image which says some much, with so little and has the overwhelming ability to have people of different generations, cultures and social groups each pull back to the same point to describe who was Grace Kelly. Elegant. Classic. Unique. Grace.Filed under Historical Royals, Monaco Royals
Tagged Australia, Exhibition, Fashion, Princess Charlène, Princess Grace, Working Visit.