Grace Kelly: Style Icon is a temporary exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, put together to celebrate the style of actress and later princess of Monaco. If you like Grace Kelly’s style, then you will certainly enjoy seeing some of the beautiful gowns that she wore in films, and at premières and balls. However, you may be a little disappointed by the exhibition itself.
The exhibition is in a small section of the Fashion gallery, and can get quite crowded. Entrance to the exhibition is timed, and on the day I went I had to wait several hours before I could see it. Now that it has been open for several months it may be less popular, but I would still suggest booking tickets online or over the phone rather than turning up on the day and booking at the museum, unless you want to risk having to wait until late.
The displays include several outfits from the different stages of Grace Kelly’s life. The exhibition is divided into sections entitled Actress, Bride, Princess and Enduring Icon. My favourite dresses were those worn by Grace Kelly when she was an actress in the 1950s – they are simple, elegant, and it’s easy to see why this style is considered classic. There is a magenta-purple one and I’ve forgotten what it was for, but I loved it, naturally! It’s interesting to see how the dresses that she wore in her films look in reality, as Jenny Lister, the curator, says in the video above, they are surprisingly well made. The dresses from the 1970s, which were worn to balls and charity galas, were less elegant and more ostentatious, and I didn’t like those as much. The exhibition, unfortunately, does not include Grace Kelly’s famous wedding dress; however it does showcase bags, gloves, hats, and jewellery, including the Hermès bag that was named after her. There are not many items, they are in very small display cases and I had to wait for people to move before I could see them. The gift stall is also tiny, and the souvenirs were quite disappointing considering how amazing (though expensive) some of the tie-in items for other exhibitions are.
What bothered me most about this exhibition was that it was difficult to get much sense of Grace Kelly is a person. Admittedly, I don’t know that much about her and I haven’t seen most of her films, so I wasn’t the most prepared of visitors. Each item had a little description to place it in context, detailing who designed it and when and where it was worn, and there were photographs on the walls and films running, however, I still felt that there was not enough information, and that made it less accessible for someone who is casually interested in fashion history in general and is not necessarily an expert on Grace Kelly (ie. me). When you go into the exhibition you are given a little booklet with copies of the introductory texts for each section, and the timeline of her life, but this is all also displayed on the walls and is very basic. You can read all these paragraphs online. The exhibition seemed to deliberately avoid touching upon anything controversial. I can understand if the curator wanted to keep the focus on the clothes but a little more story could have livened up the displays.
This exhibition will remain open until the 26th September 2010. Tickets are £6 full price, £4 concessions, or free for V&A members. Although it is not spectacular, I think that if you are interested in fashion and want to visit the V&A anyway, it is worth seeing because entry is not very expensive and most of the rest of the museum is free.
Grace Kelly: Style Icon – The Private View – Video in which various celebrities talk about why they consider Grace Kelly to be a style icon.
BBC News: Grace Kelly dresses on show at London’s V&A museum – Short video in which Natasha Bailie talks about the three dresses on display that she finds most timeless and beautiful.