Amazing Grace: The movie icon look for 2010
From a major V&A exhibition to the look of Mad Men's leading ladies, Grace Kelly is everywhere this year.
The chemistry of being a movie star is about maintaining the perfect temperature. From the screen, you need to radiate enough heat to keep the audience's pulses racing, to invite a little fantasy, yet maintain enough coolness to remind them that a fantasy is all it is. Too much heat and they think you're cheap; too little and they don't look long enough to care. The trick is to look approachable without being available.
In the eyes of fashion, Grace the woman and grace the noun have become intertwined. A major exhibition at the V&A celebrates Grace Kelly as a style icon, with pieces from her wardrobe displayed alongside film and photographs. The first section of the exhibition, The Actress, highlights her on-screen fashion moments, including costumes designed by Edith Head, Paramount's chief costume designer, for Rear Window (1954), and by MGM's Helen Rose, for High Society (1956), alongside film clips and posters. The next section, The Bride, includes the chic belted shirtdress she wore for the announcement of her engagement to Prince Rainier, and the lace bodice and skirt chosen for her civil ceremony in 1956, as well as archive footage of the religious wedding. The Princess features Balenciaga, Dior and Chanel dresses from the 60s and 70s.
Yet so closely do we identify Kelly with her 50s glory days that it is almost shocking to see her in a ruffle-edged 1972 gown by Marc Bohan for Christian Dior. Her 11-film career lasted only five years, from 1951 to her wedding, so her enduring image is set firmly in the white-gloved 50s, before the certainties of those days began to unravel. The ice-blue satin gown and pearl-drop earrings she wore when she won an Oscar (for The Country Girl) in 1955 are as much the finery of another era. (Incidentally, she had worn the dress at the film's premiere the previous year; she wore it again on the cover of Life the month after. How times change.)
Almost more iconic, though, than the pearls and satin is the casual Grace: the capri pants, headscarf and sunglasses she wore in 1955's To Catch A Thief, and the Pringle twinsets she wore on honeymoon with Hermès scarves. Clare Waight Keller, the current designer at Pringle, says Kelly's beauty "suddenly made this classic combination highly fashionable and desirable". The twinset has been an icon of the Pringle brand ever since. The chic, casual, Riviera style was a perfect marriage of the lean, spare aesthetic of upper-class American style with French chic. It was while filming To Catch A Thief that Kelly and Head decamped to Paris for a shopping trip, ending up in Hermès "like two girls in an ice-cream shop", as Head put it, and a love affair with another brand was born.Kelly is everywhere this year. The new Salvatore Ferragamo campaign draws on the atmosphere of To Catch A Thief, featuring the car used in the film; the hair, colours and gloves, channelled through Mad Men's Betty Draper, are filtering on to a high-street consciousness.
• If you happen to find yourself in London, make sure you visit: Grace Kelly: Style Icon at the V&A in London from 17 April to 26 September