Fashion and mementos from the legendary life of Princess Grace of Monaco will appear in North America for the first time at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, celebrating her dedicated relationship with haute couturier Christian Dior.
The special exhibition Grace of Monaco: Princess in Dior will explore the longstanding collaboration between Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, and Marc Bohan, artistic director at Christian Dior, through clothing, accessories, photos, and more, on special loan from the Palace of Monaco.
Presented in North America for the first time, the exhibition, which originated at the Musée Dior in Granville, France, offers insights into the life of an icon, whose image was created in response to Hollywood’s wish for glamour and the desire for elegance in her stately duties. Grace of Monaco is a tribute to Bohan’s muse in the 1960s and 1970s and a celebration of their enduring partnership through haute couture.
Like Kelly, Hillwood founder Marjorie Merriweather Post was a tastemaker who carefully cultivated her image, choosing smart, elegant pieces, and treating her apparel as she did her collections, as a connoisseur. As Hillwood interprets 20th-century fashion through Post’s own collection of jewelry, accessories, and apparel, it is fitting to expand this narrative through showcasing Kelly’s place in the world of 20th-century haute couture.
Princess in Dior
About one third of Kelly’s wardrobe was Dior, not only because the house was so prestigious but also because she was such close friends with Bohan. According to Florence Müller, fashion historian and curator of the original exhibition, “Bohan perfectly understood her role: she needed to be stylish, but respectful of etiquette.” The two, “had the same idea of elegance; she found in Bohan someone who could share her vision,” Müller said. Bohan viewed Kelly as the embodiment of a style that was understated, sophisticated, in vogue, and tasteful, while she saw him as Monaco’s most up-to-the minute fashion designer. As Bohan said, “She epitomized my style, a style that caught your attention but was never excessive.” With 83 pieces from Kelly’s collection on view, the exhibition will highlight their fruitful relationship in crafting and maintaining Kelly’s image.
Charmed by the elegance of Bohan’s designs for Dior, Kelly made appearances in tailored wool ensembles and airy pastel dresses, paired with classic accessories, such as hats for which she had a particular fondness. She had an innate sense of style, and this glimpse into her attire sheds light on the life of a legendary figure, who was both a darling of the public, and a modern, socially engaged woman. “I'm basically a feminist,” Kelly once said. “I think that women can do anything they decide to do.”
About Grace of Monaco
Grace Kelly (1929-1982) was a leading American actor, starring in 11 films and over 60 television productions, earning an Academy Award, and becoming a style icon for her understated glamour. Her relationship with Dior began in 1954, when she wore the ‘Caracas’ dress from the Spring/Summer 1954 Christian Dior-New York collection to the premiere of the film Rear Window.
Leaving Hollywood to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, she was thenceforth Princess Grace of Monaco, known for her stately beauty and active in charitable and cultural work, continuing to maintain her characteristic casual chic. For her first public appearance following the engagement announcement, Kelly opted for dramatic haute couture gowns by Christian Dior, establishing herself as one of the firm’s most loyal and iconic clients for the rest of her life.
The Musée Dior celebrates the life and legacy of innovative fashion designer Christian Dior (1905-1957). With a debut couture collection in Paris in 1947, Dior’s fresh, feminine silhouette inspired fashion’s insiders and defined women’s fashion for the following decade. Named the “New Look” by Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow, Dior’s elegant designs characterized the postwar ebullience of the 1950s. His astute management and business innovations not only reinvigorated Paris as fashion’s capital following the Occupation but also set precedents for today’s modern business of fashion. In September 1960, Marc Bohan became artistic director following the death of Christian Dior. During his thirty-year tenure, Bohan guided the House of Dior through the modern age with reverence to its founding parameters of understated femininity.
Grace de Monaco, princesse en Dior
Grace of Monaco: Princess in Dior is based on the exhibition Grace de Monaco, princesse en Dior organized by the Christian Dior Museum of Granville and curated by Florence Müller, Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Fashion, Denver Art Museum.
Grace of Monaco: Princess in Dior is supported by The Marjorie Merriweather Post Foundation, Northern Trust, Ellen MacNeille Charles, Ms. Nedenia Rumbough and Mr. Jan Roosenburg, Janice and Ralph Shrader, Kyra Cheremeteff and Thomas W. Richardson, and Mr. and Mrs. Ronald N. Slimp II. All exhibitions and programs are funded in part by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts through the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs program. This project was supported by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.