{Costume Review: Grace Kelly’s High Society Wardrobe}

NOTE: This post is a repost from a few years ago. This Tuesday’s post was going to be about my trip to My Fair Lady, but time got away from me this weekend while trying to finish up The Little Mermaid costumes and so I’m going to save that one for when I can actually write it at a leisurely pace. So enjoy a little “blast from the blog past” today!

This week, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has been showing a Grace Kelly retrospective, and today I went to see my favorite Grace Kelly movie, High Society, on the big screen.  Not only am I a fan of Kelly’s work, but I am a big fan of the costumes in High Society, and I was not going to miss the chance to see them on the big screen.

High Society is a take on the Philadelphia Story, only set to music.  Kelly plays Tracy Lord, divorced and gearing up for her second marriage.  Matters are complicated when her ex-husband, who lives next door and is still in love with her of course, returns.  And as if that’s not enough complication, two reporters also show up to cover the wedding in exchange for not publishing an article about Tracy’s father, and in the midst of all this, Mike Connor also falls for Tracy (in the one day before the wedding).  And through it all, Tracey is impeccably dressed by costume designer Helen Rose, who would go on to design Kelly’s famous wedding dress to the Prince of Monaco.

When we first meet Tracey, she is preparing for her wedding, wearing a button down shirt and pants in what I can also call “safari khaki.”  On her feet are what appear to be the 1950’s version of Tom’s.  I love that even in this simple, technically casual outfit, Grace Kelly still manages to be completely glamorous (I took a lot of these pictures with my phone, so they’re not the best!).

When Mike Connors and Elizbeth Imbrie show up to cover the wedding, Tracy decides to adopt an over-the-top, somwhat borderline crazy attitude, and I love that Rose put her in a costume to reflect this.  It’s a full skirted blue dress, in a striped fabric underneath a blue chiffon.  Kelly just seems to float ethereally around in it as she gives the reporters the runaround, and the dress swishes and bunches and moves right along with her in a cloud of chiffon and crinoline.  And, she is, of course, perfectly accessorized in her pearls and the matching blue shoes.

One thing that I also loved about the scenes in which Kelly wear this blue dress is the cohesion between the characters.  You’ll notice that they’re all wearing blue, in some form or another.  Even Carolyn, the little sister all the way to the right in this picture, is wearing blue shoes to tie her to the rest of the group.  I love how, even with the color matching, each character has on a distinct outfit.

The next time we see Tracy, she is by the pool, in a fabulously flowing Grecian gown; this is to reflect a conversation she has with her father during this scene about being a “cold goddess.”  Underneath what is basically the most glamorous beach cover up ever, is a simple, but gorgeous, white bathing suit (that I want!).  And, incidentally, the ring that Kelly has on during this movie is her actual engagement ring from the Prince of Monaco (not really a costuming decision, but I thought an interesting fact).

During this scene, Tracy has a flashback to her brief happy honeymoon with Dexter (Bing Crosby).  I love how she has outfits that go with every occasion.  In the flashback scene, the couple is on a sailboat, and she’s got on a plaid shirt and pedal pushers, along with a little boater hat.

And for the next scene, a basic sweater set and skirt.  The main interest here for me is the embroidery on the otherwise plain sweater.  Butterflies, maybe?  Or dragonflies?

Because of her still conflicted feelings for her ex-husband, and her frustration at having the reporters at the house for the wedding, Tracy essentially kidnaps Mike Connors, and shows him a thing or two about the rich society of Newport, Rhode Island.  In this scene, she is wearing a cape with a hood, and underneath that a tan shirt dress.

After this scene we reach the pivotal point in the movie, when everything starts to come together and fall apart.  For this scene, Kelly is wearing what has to be one of my favorite movie costumes of all time (favorite dresses, in general, of all time!).  It’s a gorgeous blue/gray ballgown with embroidered flowers on it, and a sparkle dusted into the fabric.  It looks amazing in pictures, but even more amazing in motion, during the dancing scenes in the movie.  Though it never actually touches the water, it is implied that it does when Tracy jumps in the pool (all you hear as the viewer is the splash and you never actually see her in the water) – devastating for someone who loves dresses as much as I do!  That dress would not survive an actual dip in the pool.

During the dinner, Tracy drinks entirely too much champagne and manages to kiss all of her pursuers except for her actualy fiance.  This leads George to believe that she and Mike Connors had an extended affair, and eventually the wedding is called off.  But not before you get to see the lovely wedding dress that Tracy has chosen (with a matching hat and wonderfully matching shoes, again!).  There’s also a lovely floral detail on the belt.

Of course, as these things generally go, it is the first husbund she still has harbored feelings for that Tracy ends up remarrying:

And everyone, in the end, lives happily ever after, of course (or so it is implied…).

I loved the fact that Grace Kelly was allowed to keep her outfits worn in High Society.  It was her last film before she became the Princess of Monaco.

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