Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Grace Kelly: The Hermès Collector

Grace Kelly with Edith Head, 1955. © Rex Features

I’m reading the book Grace Kelly Style by H. Kristina Haugland, the catalog that accompanied the exhibit Grace Kelly: Style Icon that was at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2010. Oh how I wish I could’ve seen this show! The book does a nice job of combining the main biographical facts of Kelly’s life and the contributions made to her iconic style by designers like Edith Head, Helen Rose, Oleg Cassini, and others, with the addition of fun little facts you might not turn up in a standard biography. To wit:

There’s a great picture in the book of Grace Kelly with Edith Head, the legendary Hollywood costume designer, who created the looks for two of Grace’s most famous roles: Lisa Fremont in Rear Window and Frances Stevens in To Catch a Thief.

Here’s what the caption says: “Paramount sent Edith Head on location for the filming of To Catch a Thief; en route, the costume designer and Grace Kelly went shopping in Paris, where the actress indulged her weakness for buying gloves at Hermès to such an extent that she had to send for more money.”

When I read this my first thought was, Come again? A weakness for buying gloves at Hermès? Had to send for more money? I love it! I feel the same way about their scarves as she did about their gloves (and I get the feeling she had a similar affinity for their silks too). For some reason I thought Grace didn’t start carrying her haut à courroies bag, which Hermès eventually renamed a Kelly in her honor, until after she married Prince Rainier III in 1956. But apparently she was already into Hermès before she even met him.

Grace and Rainier (and her Kelly!) on the day they announced their engagement in 1956.

The same day. I love Rainier helping Grace and her bag out of the car! © Bettmann/Corbis

How big was her Hermès collection? Did she have a closet full of it? I’m thinking maybe not (but will get back to you on this). The book says Grace didn’t actually buy that much in the way of clothes and she got a lot of use out of what she did own. I remember reading an online review of the Grace Kelly exhibit and the writer noted how well-used her Kelly was. There’s also this quote from Grace herself that she gave to a Saturday Evening Post journalist in 1960:

“I am not eager to give away my things just because they’re worn. I keep my things longer than most people.”

From the book. Grace in 1958 with her man and her bag! © Rex Features

Grace’s Kelly.

So I’m thinking maybe she just had a small Hermès collection. As for her namesake bag I don’t know how many Kellys Grace owned but I do know I have seen pictures of her with at least 3—one a Retourne of brown leather (is this Box Calf or Barenia, any of you H babes who know better than me feel free to clarify), a Barenia leather and Toile version, and a white Kelly with a flat handle that I don’t think Hermès even makes anymore.

Detail of a Howell Conant photo of Grace in Jamaica in 1967, using her white Kelly.

In any event, Hermès or not, it’s nice to read that somebody who could’ve had anything, and lots of anything, bought a few nice things and then used them again and again and again, for the whole of her life.


Anonymous said...

I can only imagine the price one would put on any three of her Hermes bags. And, I like the fact that she WORE her clothes until they were worn...

Veshoevius said...

"...it’s nice to read that somebody who could’ve had anything, and lots of anything, bought a few nice things and then used them again and again and again, for the whole of her life."

Indeed! Who would have thought? Let that be an example to the rest of us! She was a stunner and so elegant.

Chicatanyage said...

such an icon. Thanks I will check out the book sounds interesting.

Chicatanyage said...

Forgot to say that I say the exhibition of her clothes when it was in London at the V & A museum and it was fantastic.

Sacramento Amate said...

When I finish reading your posts I am so much wiser.
Much love always, my dear Jill

A Well Styled Life said...

Oh how wonderful. I will get this book. I love to read about style icons, and Grace was that and much more. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You make us all dream of having many Kelly bags and many Hermes silk scarves and many Hermes gloves and... and... The whole Hermès store would be fine actually!
Grace is definitely a model for her elegance. How moving to see all these photos of her!
I think she was wise to stick to her favorite accessories even when they were a little worn out. The good point with Hermes items: their quality is so amazing that with time, they get a special sheen. True with leather. True with silk too.
Good luck for the coming week, dear friend. I hope you'll be fine and that Sandy won't affect you.

kim at northerncalstyle. said...

Love this post about Grace. It's really fun to see those photos that are rarely seen, like the last one.

Great blog!


grunge-queen said...

I am so loving the idea of Grace Kelly hanging onto her Hermes bag for a long time - you just assume sometimes that all famous people shop like a maniacs and constantly get rid of the overflow. She truly honored Hermes by doing that!

My thoughts are with people in your part of the world - my hubby is in NJ now and now and arrived in time for the snow storm. Jeepers, you are right what you say about New Yorkers being resilient folk.

P.S. Thank you for your very kind comment on my blog a few weeks ago. It helped a lot. xo