If I had to pick a favorite actress (which I don't really like to do, but people always want to know), it would be Grace Kelly.So says Edith Head, in a quote from her unfinished biography which was completed by Paddy Calistro and became Edith Head's Hollywood (see sources below for more information). She goes on to say: "We don't have many great women stars anymore, but in the 1950s Grace was tops. She was an ex-model and she knew how to wear clothes."
Edith liked to build relationships with the stars she dressed. She wanted them to be comfortable and happy and she worked closely with them to ensure this. "Sometimes she [Kelly] would come into my salon with her lunch and the two of us would talk and laugh for hours at a time. It was always a pleasure to see her kick off her shoes and relax...she felt safe in my salon, as if it was a quiet refuge from the studio commissary" (Head, 108-109).
Edith Head dressed Grace Kelly in four films. The first film they worked on together was in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954). Edith remembers, "Grace was cast as a high-society type, so her part called for an extremely stylish wardrobe. Hitch wanted her to look like a piece of Dresden china, something slightly untouchable. So I did that. Her suits were impeccably tailored. Her accessories looked as though they couldn't be worn by anyone else but her. She was perfect. Few actresses could have carried off the look the way Grace did (Head, 109). When people think of Grace Kelly, it is usually wearing one of the costumes (of which there were only six) from this film - either THAT black and white gown or THAT green suit.
The next film was The Bridges of Toko-Ri (1954) which "wasn't really a costume picture" and of which Grace only appeared in for a whopping 15 minutes. Following that was The Country Girl (1954) which Edith was excited to be assigned to - until she read the script: "The character had absolutely no resemblance to Grace Kelly. I put her in housedresses and skirts and blouses, and made her look dumpy (Head, 108). However, Grace ended up winning an Oscar (more on THAT dress later) for her role in the film as "a woman who had been married for ten years and has lost interest in... everything" (Spoto, 155).
You can purchase a replica of this gown here.
You can watch the full film here.
A little over a month later, Grace would meet for the first time with Prince Rainier of Monaco and on April 19, 1956 they were married in what was described as "the wedding of the century." Though Edith hoped she would be asked to design Grace's wedding gown, Grace asked Helen Rose, costume designer of her home studio, MGM (she also did the costumes in High Society - 1956). Instead, Edith designed Grace's going-away suit as a gift from Paramount. The suit was light gray silk and "was topped with a white overcoat and worn with a tiny white hat and long white gloves.
Nearly all of the costumes Edith designed for Grace Kelly have become iconic and synonymous with the epitome of glamour. Their collaborations will always be remembered in the history of film fashion and continue to inspire the dresses that the stars of today wear on the red carpet. Some of them have even been immortalized as Barbie Doll fashions. There was truly something perfect about those dresses. It was indeed a perfect fashion marriage.
Wedding gown (Helen Rose), dress worn to meet Prince Rainier, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief.
Diane Kruger in Grace Kelly inspired gowns
Spoto, Donald. High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly. Harmony Books, NY. 2009.
Head, Edith & Paddy Calistro. Edith Head's Hollywood. E. P. Dutton, Inc., NY. 1983.
This post is part of The Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon (in honor of her birthday) by The Wonderful World of Cinema. Be sure and read all of the other posts celebrating this iconic actress!