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90 Years of Grace: Her ’50s Style


PHOTO CREDIT: BY METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER, PUBLIC DOMAIN, WIKI COMMONS

As Royal Central marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of one of modern history’s most famous princesses, we are taking a look back at some of Grace’s most stylish moments of the 1950s. This decade saw her rise to Hollywood stardom by the mid ’50s, with an Oscar under her belt, before leaving it all behind for true love in Monaco, becoming Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco in 1956.

Her style evolved throughout the ’50s from Hollywood starlet to princess consort, and today we’re looking at some of her most iconic looks of the decade.

Most of Grace Kelly’s films are now considered classics, as are the costumes she wore. She worked with the top costume designers of the time period, including Helen Rose and Edith Head, on films like To Catch a Thief and High Society.

Pink dress worn by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief. Photo: Jess Ilse
Costumes worn by Grace Kelly in High Society. Photo: Jess Ilse

On 30 March 1955, Grace Kelly won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Country Girl. It was her second nomination and only win. She wore an ice blue evening gown made of French satin and designed by acclaimed costume designer Edith Head. It is routinely listed as one of the best Oscar gowns of all time.

Grace Kelly’s Oscar and Oscar gown. Photo: Jess Ilse

Grace was part of the American contingent that travelled to the 1955 Cannes Film Festival in May. As part of a feature for Paris Match magazine, Grace traveled to Monaco to meet Prince Rainier III for a photo shoot. Due to a strike, Grace was unable to press her dress, so the floral dress she wore to meet the prince was wrinkled.

The two maintained a correspondence throughout the rest of 1955, and by January of 1956, they had an announcement to make: they were engaged! The news was revealed at Grace’s family home in Philadelphia, where Rainier traveled to so that he could ask for her parents’ blessing.

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The two attended a ball in their honour on 6 January 1956 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The ball’s theme was “A Night in Monte Carlo.”

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On 23 February 1956, Grace was awarded the World Film Favourite – Actress Award at the Golden Globes in Hollywood.

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One of Grace’s last Hollywood events was to present the Academy Award for Best Actor to Ernest Borgnine on 29 March 1956.

On 12 April 1956, Grace Kelly arrived in Monaco aboard the SS Constitution with her family and friends. Prince Rainier boarded a yacht to come out to meet her in the harbour, along with the residents of Monaco who were getting a glimpse of their future princess for the first time. Grace wore a wide-brimmed hat, and though she looked chic and stylish, the press complained that her hat blocked the view of her face.

On 18 April 1956, Grace Kelly officially became Princess Grace of Monaco with her civil wedding ceremony in the throne room of the Prince’s Palace. Her pale pink, lace-covered suit dress was designed by MGM costume designer Helen Rose and accessorized with a Juliet cap and kid gloves.

Princess Grace’s civil wedding dress. Photo: Jess Ilse

The next day, Princess Grace stunned the world in a peau de soie and lace masterpiece at her religious wedding ceremony. Designed by MGM costume designer Helen Rose, the gown was a high-necked, long-sleeved dress that featured “twenty-five yards of silk taffeta, one hundred yards of silk net, peau de soie, tulle and 125-year-old Brussels rose point lace.”

Grace styled her wedding dress with a flowing Juliet cap and carried a Bible in lieu of a bouquet. Her wedding dress became instantly iconic, and is still mimicked to this day – most recently with echoes of the design featured in the Duchess of Cambridge’s gown in 2011.

As a devout Catholic, Grace was no doubt thrilled to meet with Pope Pius XII in 1957.

Following her ascent to royalty, Grace made sure to return to the United States frequently for visits. Here, she is shown arriving in New York City with her husband in 1958:

Here, she is shown attending The Imperial Ball in Manhattan:

Here, Grace is pictured at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1958:

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Grace was well-known for her love of Hermes bags, and used one style so frequently to cover her front so that pregnancy rumours couldn’t be accurately spread about her, that the bag was called the Kelly Bag. It’s pictured here in 1959.

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About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, with an emphasis on the British, Danish, and Swedish Royal Families.