The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and a work of art itself. This in itself should provide reason enough to make a trip to London, but from April 17th to September 26th there's the added incentive of a fantastic exhibition of one of the biggest fashion and style icons. Doesn't that tempt you?
Under the title Grace Kelly, Style Icon, the exhibition includes clothes and pictures of the actress, who remains for many the holder of the title of the world's most stylish woman. Among the accessories on display will be a selection of hats and jewellery and the original Hermes handbag that was christened "the Kelly bag" in her honour. Make sure you stop and admire the dress she wore for her civil wedding ceremony with Prince Rainier in 1956, which will be there, alongside some of the outfits from the movie High Society, the gown she wore to accept the Oscar in 1955. A total of 50 outfits will be on display, including around three dozen haute couture gowns from top designers including Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent.
The Grace Kelly story reads like a romantic movie script: the successful Fifties film star who meets a European prince who falls in love with her and marries her, making her a princess. The fairytale story continues as the Princess of Monaco, an icon of style and fashion during her lifetime, remains a benchmark for taste and elegance years after her tragic death.
The exhibition aims to explore the myth that has arisen around the style of the actress who became a princess and to inspire those working in contemporary design. Looking at the exhibits, it's clear that many of the today's fashion trends have their inspiration in Princess Grace's style. So, if you're a budding fashionista, try and take this opportunity to travel to London and look closely at some of the original designs that marked the pace and path of fashion history - including navy stripes, silk squares knotted a the neck, Greek and Roman inspired gowns...
As a movie star, her talent and beauty made her the object of competition among Hollywood directors who all wanted her to star in their films. Appropriately, then, at the V&A exhibition, the collection of dresses will be complemented by fragments of Grace's films, posters, photographs and even the Oscar statuette she won for her performance in The Country Girl.
And once you've seen the Kelly collection, before you go on for a shopping spree in the capital, why not explore some of the other gems housed in the museum? Located at the corner of Cromwell Gardens and Exhibition Road in west London, the V&A was opened in 1852 and bore the name of South Kensington Museum until, in 1899, it was renamed in honour of Queen Victoria and her husband. Now, over a century later, the great Victorian and Edwardian building is a treasure house of decorative arts with a collection of over four million items from Europe, India, China, Korea, Japan and the Islamic world.
Its galleries house a vast range of paintings, drawings, sculpture, glass, jewellery, armour, weapons, costumes, musical instruments, ceramics, furniture... and the works of such great artists as Botticelli, Tintoretto, Delacroix, Degas, Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Dürer are on display. You can also view the seven remaining cartoons of The Acts of the Apostles, that Raphael created for the famous Sistine Chapel tapestries. The museum is also the home of the National Art Library, whose greatest treasure is the Codex Forster, the parchment-bound notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci.
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