If you are a magazine editor, as I am, you tend to get invited to lots of stuff. It’s a cool perk of the job. Much of what you are invited to, despite the pretty packaging of various invitations, is not that interesting. But sometimes you luck out, and end up at something where you feel very fancy and very special and very glad you got to go.
Such was the case this past Saturday, when I attended the black-tie gala dinner opening the new exhibit Grace Kelly: Beyond the Icon, at the James A. Michener Museum in Doylestown. The exhibit features more than 40 dresses and costumes from the Philadelphia movie star, princess and style icon, along with various other personal and starry ephemera, including her Oscar for 1954’s The Country Girl. (Tickets are selling briskly, so if you want to go, take my advice and buy now—we don’t get this kind of repository of glamour here often.)
And there is major glamour here. It’s amazing to see the Kelly clothes from her movies, made by Helen Rose and Edith Head, but it’s in the princess’s personal wardrobe that you can see why she became such a pillar of style. Whether it’s a Yves St. Laurent wool jersey, a Givenchy silk suit and hat, a Balenciaga wool knit suit, or more dreamy confections from Dior, Oleg Cassini and Madame Grés, there is a dress here to leave any woman swooning in fairytale envy.
The evening featured bland remarks from state first lady Susan Corbett (who, with a straight face, made a case that Pennsylvania is unequaled in arts and culture among the 50 states, which I am sure New York found hilarious) and a set of songs from Leslie Odom, Jr., the sensational singer who was the first recipient of an arts scholarship from the Princess Grace Foundation USA and who is probably best known for his role as Sam, the dancer whose heart was broken by songwriter Tom on NBC’s Smash. (Or, alternately, as “the black guy on Smash.”)
I had the good fortune of finding myself at a table with several folks who actually live and/or work in Monaco, the smallest country on the planet (it’s the size of Central Park) and one cloaked in romance, style and mystique. I found out some interesting things, namely that the country is divided between the über-rich who can afford it and the people who work for them (the latter’s housing is subsidized)—the middle class basically doesn’t exist; the number of pure-bred Monégasques is dwindling to almost nothing; a two-bedroom apartment there will run you a tidy $12 million. I also learned that when you are sitting with Scottish expatriates now living in Monaco, you should not confess an affinity for Irish whiskey.
But perhaps the biggest thing I learned was that the suburban swells can turn it out; there was hardly a fashion faux pas among the sea of taffeta, silk, and organza, much of it augmented by tasteful jewelry and the occasional pair of opera gloves. Because really—does Grace Kelly deserve any less?