Princess Grace’s partnership with Dior explored at Hillwood

Grace of Monaco photographed by Gaby in 1970. © GABY Photo and Archives du Palace de Monaco

Grace of Monaco photographed by Gaby in 1970. © GABY Photo and Archives du Palace de Monaco

WASHINGTON — The special exhibition Grace of Monaco: Princess in Dior, on view at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens to January 8, 2023, explores the longstanding collaboration between Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, and Marc Bohan, artistic director at Christian Dior, through clothing, accessories, photos, and more material on special loan from the Palace of Monaco.

Presented in North America for the first time, the exhibition, which originated at the Musee Christian Dior in Granville, France, offers insights into the life of an icon, who crafted her image in response to Hollywood’s love of glamour and later the desire for elegance in her stately duties. Grace of Monaco is a tribute to Bohan’s muse in the 1960s and 1970s and a celebration of their enduring partnership through haute couture.

Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Like Kelly, Hillwood founder Marjorie Merriweather Post was a tastemaker who carefully cultivated her image, choosing smart, sophisticated pieces, and treating her apparel as she did her collections, as a connoisseur. As Hillwood interprets 20th-century fashion through Post’s own collection of jewelry, accessories and apparel, it is fitting to expand this narrative through showcasing Kelly’s place in the world of 20th-century haute couture.

Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

“We are honored to be the second home of this beautiful exhibition, sharing Kelly and Bohan’s remarkable relationship and bringing these wearable works of art to Washington,” said Hillwood’s executive director, Kate Markert. “We say Hillwood is ‘Where fabulous lives,’ and Grace of Monaco is nothing short of fabulous.”

Princess in Dior
About one third of Kelly’s wardrobe was Dior, not only because the house was so prestigious but also because she was such close friends with Bohan. According to Florence Muller, fashion historian and curator of the original exhibition, “Bohan perfectly understood her role: she needed to be stylish, but respectful of etiquette.” She added that the two “had the same idea of elegance; she found in Bohan someone who could share her vision.”

Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Bohan viewed Kelly as the embodiment of a style that was understated, sophisticated, in vogue and tasteful, while she saw him as Monaco’s most up-to-the minute fashion designer. As Bohan said, “She epitomized my style, a style that caught your attention but was never excessive.” With 86 pieces from Kelly’s collection on view, including pieces of jewelry not previously displayed, the exhibition will highlight their fruitful relationship in crafting and maintaining Kelly’s image.

Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Charmed by the elegance of Bohan’s designs for Dior, Kelly made appearances in tailored wool ensembles and airy pastel dresses, paired with classic accessories such as hats, for which she had a particular fondness. She had an innate sense of style, and this glimpse into her attire sheds light on the life of a legendary figure who was both a darling of the public and a modern, socially engaged woman. “I’m basically a feminist,” Kelly once said. “I think that women can do anything they decide to do.”

About Grace of Monaco
Grace Kelly (1929-1982) was a leading American actor, starring in 11 films and more than 60 television productions. She earned an Academy Award and became a style icon for her understated glamour. Her relationship with Dior began in 1954, when she wore the Caracas dress from the Spring/Summer 1954 Christian Dior-New York collection to the premiere of the film Rear Window.

Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Leaving Hollywood to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, she was thenceforth Princess Grace of Monaco, known for her stately beauty and her charitable and cultural work, which she pursued while continuing to maintain her characteristic casual chic. For her first public appearance following the engagement announcement, Kelly opted for dramatic haute couture gowns by Christian Dior, establishing herself as one of the firm’s most loyal and iconic clients for the rest of her life.

About Dior
The Musee Christian Dior celebrates the life and legacy of innovative fashion designer Christian Dior (French, 1905-1957). With a debut couture collection in Paris in 1947, Dior’s fresh, feminine silhouette inspired fashion’s insiders and defined women’s fashion for the following decade. Named the “New Look” by Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow, Dior’s elegant designs characterized the postwar ebullience of the 1950s. His astute management and business innovations not only reinvigorated Paris as fashion’s capital following the Nazi Occupation of World War II, but also set precedents for today’s modern business of fashion. In September 1960, Marc Bohan became artistic director, following Yves Saint Laurent from 1958-1960, after the death of Christian Dior. During his 30-year tenure, Bohan guided the House of Dior through the modern age with reverence to its founding parameters of understated femininity.

Grace de Monaco, princesse en Dior
Grace of Monaco: Princess in Dior is based on the exhibition Grace de Monaco, princesse en Dior organized by the Christian Dior Museum of Granville and curated by Florence Muller, Avenir Foundation curator of textile art and fashion, Denver Art Museum.

Visit the website of Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens and see its dedicated page for Grace of Monaco: Princess in Dior.