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From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly Beyond The Icon

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For the centenarian celebration of Monaco, Grace Kelly, the American actress turned Princess of the principality, wanted to wear a historically themed garment. Arriving at the Monte Carlo Casino for the fete, Kelly wore exactly what she intended – a mammoth ball gown with a massive crinoline underneath (pictured above). Two weeks ago and on an arctic Saturday, I saw this dress and forty two other Kelly garments at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

So very poised, Kelly captivated an audience on 2 continents. Born in Philadelphia into an Irish family, Kelly was a local girl who made is good. In less than five years, she reached the height of Hollywood success, winning the 1954 Academy Award for Best Actress for “The Country Girl.” Then, in 1955 and while she was in France for the Cannes International Film Festival, Kelly was invited to a palace in the nearby country of Monaco after the magazine Paris Match arranged a small get-together. At the time, she had everything, except for love, and Prince Rainer III, ruler of the city-state, gave her a reason to leave her former life behind. Shortly after meeting that night, Rainer and Kelly wed at an event that harvested 1,600 reporters and photographers and a weeklong, countrywide celebration. Their nuptial was called “the wedding of the century.”

Most of the clothes on display were not as grand as the centenarian gown, but they came close. For a gala the evening after her wedding, Kelly wore a beaded, embroidered, white dress designed by Lanvin. Other garments included  dresses, skirt suits, jackets, and coats by famed designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Marc Bohan, and Christian Dior. And you can gasp as this fact – Kelly wore clothes more than once; she was “as loyal to old clothes as to old friends.”

Grace Kelly is not just a public figure to me, but someone I know through association. My grandfather’s and Kelly’s parents were best friends. Jim Flanigan, my great grandfather, was Jack Kelly’s campaign manager when he ran for mayor of Philadelphia. Our family’s were so close that a few members of my family attended the wedding. Because of the connection, I constantly hear stories about their lives together whenever Kelly’s name comes up in a conversation. When I told Mimi, my grandmother, that I went to the exhibit, she said, “Grace’s older sister, Peggy, was really the prettier one, but she wasn’t into theater like Grace.” Only a grandmother would say that!

My departing thought was that the clothes from the exhibit were so similar to the ones in her films. If movies are fantasy, then Kelly’s was a star who lived the idyllic live in the real world.

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11 Comments

  1. Reply

    Jennifer Gregory Miller

    I recognize my favorite dresses from “High Society”.

  2. Reply

    Victoria Beppler

    What a wonderful exhibit. I would love to go through and get a look into her wardrobe like that! And what a family connection. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Reply

    anto

    I just spent way too much time scrolling through these beauties. They are all stunning! Thanks for sharing your photographs from what seems to have been an incredible exhibit. And, what an amazing family connection!

  4. Reply

    Daughter Fish

    Wow! I love this post, Maddie. This makes me want to go!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      You should make the trip from NYC with your little one!

  5. Reply

    Stephanie Lanzetti

    You don’t know how jealous I am. I simply adore Grace, to me she is epitome of style. And yes she did wear clothes more than once. I know, shocking!

    Unfortunately being in Australia, I will probably will never see this exhibition. Must see if there is a book.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I think there is a book. It’s at the Michener Museum – maybe you could check their website.

  6. Reply

    Angela

    It is always such a joy to see vintage couture! Such beautiful, classic pieces! How wonderful that you have a family connection. Makes me want to go revisit some of her old flicks.

  7. Reply

    Lady ID

    I LOVE Grace Kelly and I know I am not the only one. That first dress reminds me of the ballgown from The King and I (Bryner/Kerr) which is one of my all time favourites dresses from an all-time favourite film.

    I would love to see this myself. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I remember that dress from The King and I. It was amazing!

  8. Reply

    Jack Yan

    Wonderful piece, and great photos, too, Maddie!

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