The Princess’s Old Clothes

Whisper it … Grace Kelly may have dressed in practically non-stop Dior for years, but she had … and I can hardly bring myself to say it but somebody has to …

Really weird taste in clothes.

Oh, yes, there were the perfect little shirtwasters, the lace skirt suit for her civil marriage (gorgeous, covetable), the mega wedding dress for the religious ceremony (iconic), the draped satin thing she wore to get her Oscar (fab) and the occasional boat-necked lace dress that was so perfect I wanted to rip it out of its case at the V&A and run away with it.

But.

There was also (and it was a personal favourite of hers) the orange, yellow and pink kaftan number with jewelled neck and wrists, the brown one with camel sleeves and many other floaty, drapey things that had they been worn by other duchesses and princesses I could mention, would have the tabloids laughing for YEARS AND YEARS.

Weird taste in clothes, but it worked. Partly because she had Fabulous Hair. Truly, incredibly, Fabulous Hair. It went from ‘a bit curly not sure what to do with it’ in the early actress days to ‘oh my God incredible’ in the Alexandre of Paris late princess days. Not sure how much of it was actually hers. Don’t care. She wore it well.

Also, she wore the clothes well. One of the lovely things about the V&A exhibition is that there are two film reels, playing over and over, showing her early and later days, and in all of them, moving about and smiling, she looks the elegant fashion icon we think of her as. She said, apparently, that she had to wear simple designs because she got lost in anything complicated. Well, she knew what suited her. Bizarre on a mannequin in a display case, but gorgeous on her, waving graciously, doing her thing. Even the yellow-orange-pink-jewelled thing with batwing sleeves looked somehow regal.

And I like the fact that she wore her favourites a lot. She wasn’t exactly thrifty. You can’t fill the central area of the V&A costume section with your personal Dior, Givenchy and Balenciaga collection and be thrifty, but in fashion maths, her cost per wear was very respectable.

I had to wait two and a half hours to get in to see the exhibition. I haven’t seen much about it in the news, but maybe the V&A doesn’t need to advertise. I was expecting to flit in on a weekday, no problem. But on the number 14 bus from Piccadilly, there were three ladies sitting behind me who were going there too, so excited, comparing birth dates (and in the process making me feel so younger-generation – thanks, girls!). And the place was packed.

I spent a bit too much of my waiting time in the V&A shop. I LOVE THAT PLACE! They had a book about eco design that featured my brother’s furniture. Three times! Yay! And a couple of necklaces that nearly tempted me into spending the advance for book 3. Very unwise. We need to eat. Plus some amazing silk bangles that were stunning and cheap, and which, of course, I bought. If you want something quirky and beautiful, quite probably made by a young designer and good for the planet – try the shop.

Then I retired to the cafe and read a book about the Clash (research – I love my job) and a collection of short stories by amazing, funny writers for The Queen of Teen. You must buy this book. Not only is it very, very funny (I particularly recommend the Joanna Nadin story), but proceeds go to The Kids Company, which longstanding readers of this blog will know is a favourite of mine.

It was slightly odd to go from Joe Strummer and Joanna Nadin to Grace Kelly and Marc Bohan. (Marc Bolan would have made more sense. Just thought of that. Very funny Dior/T-Rex reference. OK – maybe you had to be there …) But overall, and rainbow kaftans aside, yesterday was a good day.

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