It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

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Email: fashionmemex(at)gmail.com

From Luxor to Paris: The Odyssey of the Place de la Concorde Obelisk

It’s a miracle an Egyptian obelisk stands proud on the Paris Place de la Concorde. Not so much because of the mystery surrounding its carving, transport and erection in Upper Egypt in the 8th century BC, but rather because of the number of obstacles it faced on the journey from the city of Luxor to its current French abode. End to end, from Egyptian Khedive Muhammad Ali gifting it to France to its erection in Paris, the journey took seven years (1829 to 1836) and encountered technical difficulties, a cholera outbreak, stormy seas and Egyptian droughts.

The transfer was more than geographical, it was topical. A symbolised link between gods and humans in Egypt, the obelisk became a prime tourist attraction in France, and is currently the focus of a detailed exhibition at the Paris Musée de la Marine. It’s a fitting location: the French navy oversaw the journey. Apollinaire Lebas, the engineer who lead the project, was appointed curator of the museum in recognition of his work.

Focused on the Luxor-Paris journey, the exhibition quickly deals with the question of how the obelisk was made during Ramesses II’s reign. A video at the entrance shows men carving a bedrock of pink granite in the Aswan quarries.

When Muhammad Ali offered both obelisks from the temple of Luxor to France 16 centuries later, they were buried in nearly four metres of sand, as shown by the miniatures on display. In the 19th century, Egyptian monuments were used as an easy place to source rocks or build on, rather than as historical testimonies.

Lebas’ party, tasked with collecting the monolith, arrived in Luxor in August 1831 after five months at sea aboard the Luxor ship. Imagine Luxor at that time of the year: scorching. The obelisk itself was not in the condition the men expected; an eight-metre long fissure threatened to break it if they dared to try and move it. As his men watered the Luxor, now lying on the sand on the side of the Nile, twice a day, Lebas was forced to rethink his initial plan to take the obelisk down.

Two months later, everything was ready. Using two machines actioned by 200 men, the obelisk was brought down. During the transfer however, its centre of gravity moved and the obelisk fell in the sand, in the wrong direction but… in one piece. Lebas had succeeded in the first part of his mission.

The second part: bring the monolith back to the Luxor, 400 metres away. A span was cut in the sand. Using four capstans, 48 men managed the journey in two hours. The Luxor had been cut open to welcome her charge and, once the obelisk was on board, put back together.

Christmas day 1831 saw the men waiting for the flood for the first, but far from last, time. They needed the Nile to rise for the Luxor to float with her charge, a meteorological event not scheduled until the following summer. During that time, the party split in a few groups: some explored further than where Napoleon’s soldiers had gone, gathering scientific samples and taking Egyptian antiques for the Paris museum; others stayed in Luxor where they built a refreshing garden.

On 25 August 1832, just over a year after reaching its destination, the Luxor began the trip back to Alexandria. It reached the seaside town six months later, after being unexpectedly stuck in sandbanks.

The Sphinx, the first French navy steam boat, pulls the Luxor to Toulon, where she was initially quarantined before Lebas was able to disembark. His mission was only half complete: he still needed to get the obelisk to stand tall, in the heart of Paris.

Key to the success of this first leg of the journey was its core team. Aside from Lebas who, not wanting to live with the shame of failure, placed himself under the obelisk as it was erected Place de la Concorde so it would crush him if it fell, the party included: Lieutenant-Commander Raymond de Verninac Saint-Maur; his right-hand man Léon de Joannis, who documented the journey through sketches and Justin Pascal Angevin, a doctor. Angevin was not actually meant to be on board but switched places with the nominated doctor because he was determined to go to Egypt. He protected the men against cholera and dysentery. Although the exhibition doesn’t discuss the dynamics between the men, it is a lesson about the team’s role in the success of any project. With a different doctor, the whole party might have died.

Finally, after the last leg of the journey that saw the Luxor pulled by horses on the Seine, and the authorities somehow losing track of her, the obelisk reached Paris. However, it spent another two years lying by the pont de la Concorde before it was erected at its current place. King Louis-Philippe attended on a nearby balcony, only emerging when the experiment was a guaranteed success.

So the Obélisque has stood, overseeing traffic, for nearly two centuries. Louis-Philippe picked the place because he wanted it to be known for something else than the rivers of blood flooding there during Revolutionary beheading, including Marie-Antoinette’s and Louis VXI’s. By creating a new landmark and a new shorthand for Paris’ landscape, he succeeded. Yet few of the Parisians and tourists walking by every day marvel at how the obelisk got there, at the technological prowess and bravery involved in bringing a 230 tonne, 20 metre-high block of granite from Luxor to Paris in 19th century conditions. Le Voyage de l’Obélisque rights this oversight, mixing human stories with engineering in an exhibition covering all aspects of the journey.

Its only failure is not addressing whether the obelisk should be sent back to Luxor. The French authorities probably want to discuss the topic as much Neil MacGregor wants to discuss the Elgin Marbles’ ownership. The conditions under which the obelisk was obtained are less dodgy than the Parthenon sculptures though. Like any good 19th century French tale, it also involves the Brits. In fact, the Luxor obelisks could be standing in Trafalgar Square, since it had initially been promised to the Crown. Jean-François Champollion, liaising with Muhammad Ali on the topic, convinced the British consul to take the bigger Karnak obelisk instead, the only one worthy of William IV. It also turned out to be impossible to transport, which Champollion probably knew. So cunning, those French archaeologists!

The exhibition is open until 6 July 2014.

Photo credits: The exhibition banner; Flickr user Marc Ben Fatma Place de la Concorde; Flickr user Yann Caradec Obelisque de la place de la Concorde; Flickr user Le Jhe Concorde; Erection of the Luxor Obelisk Érection de l’Obélisque de Louxor,25 octobre 1836, détails, aquarelle. Cayrac, 1837 Dépôt du musée du Louvre© Musée national de la Marine/P. Dantec; The Luxor Obelisk being taken down Abattage de l’obélisque de Louqsor Maquette au 1/66 Atelier du musée de la Marine, 1847 © Musée national de la Marine/A. Fux; Shipping off the Luxor Obelisk Embarquement de l’obélisque de Louqsor Maquette au 1/66 Atelier du musée de la Marine, 1847 © Musée national de la Marine/A. Fux; Façade du temple de Louxor, vers 1800, aquarelle. François-Charles Cé-cile (1766-1840). © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre)/Les frères Chuzeville; Portrait d’Apollinaire Lebas (1797-1873), anonyme, milieu XIXe siècle © Musée national de  la Marine/A.Fux; Flickr user Jason Garber Place de la Concorde

Posted at 5:23pm and tagged with: exhibition review, Paris, address, Egypt,.

Exhibition review: Clarence House’s summer opening

There is something almost voyeuristic about visiting the five reception rooms that are opened to the public every August at Clarence House (Photo1), the official London residence of The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry.

In most palaces I’ve visited, the paintings are first and foremost works of art. They might represent an ancestor or a relative of the person who once lived there but by the time the place was open, all had been dead, the family not reigning anymore. These are the paintings you see in history books as evidence of the past.

Clarence House is different. It’s not just the portrait of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon as a young and shy, recently married Duchess of York by Savey Sorine (Photo 2), or its twin of the newly titled Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh. They are pictures of Prince Charles’ grandmother and mother, of women whose lives we’ve seen documented in the papers and on TV. 

Both lived in the house at various stages of their royal destiny. The Queen, shortly after her wedding to Prince Philip. They undertook heavy work to modernise the house following WWII, when it was used as a Red Cross office. The Lancaster room (Photo 5), the first you enter as a visitor, was named after the town of Lancaster. As a wedding gift, its inhabitants presented the Edinburghs with the funds to redo the room. A portrait of Edward VIII, painted during his time studying in Paris, hangs on the right of the fireplace, the most unexpected painting I saw during the whole visit.  

The Edinburghs were not to live in Clarence House for long. The family moved to Buckingham, a few metres down the Mall, after George VI’s death. In moved the Queen Mother. Visiting the house, it’s all about how the Queen and Prince Philip modified it, the Queen Mother redecorated it and Prince Charles changed it again. The Morning Room (Photo 3, 8, 9) for instance, in the Queen Mother’s Strathmore racing colours, was essentially kept as she designed it, despite a recent refresh by Robert Kime. My favourite portrait of the Queen, as a young girl, hangs opposite the entrance (Photo 3). Walter Sickert’s A Lady in a Pink Ballgown is above the fireplace. Considering the books about Sickert on display on the Lancaster Room bookshelves, the visitor can suppose that the royal couple enjoys his work. 

And that’s the thing about this guided tour: it is hard not to see it as an insight, if not in the life of The Prince of Wales and his wife, at least in the working of a royal household. For instance, there is a hole in the Dining Room (Photo 7) carpet so that people attending conferences there can plug in their laptops (or as the tour guide called it, “computer wizardry”). The rooms are the background to many official photos published in the media, such as the October 2011 reception in support of In Kind Direct, the Prince of Wales’ charity that redistribute surplus good to charities. It marked The Duchess of Cambridge’s first solo engagement, in an Amanda Wakeley vintage dress that matched the Morning Room’s colours. 

The visit ends with the grounds, split between a very geometric Rosicrucian garden, where lavender grows between box trees (Photo 10), a lawn planted with trees, a fountain with cascades of wisteria rather than water and a vegetable patch. With this patch, Prince Charles wanted to prove that you could grow vegetables in the heart of London in a pretty way. The demonstration works until you realise the patch itself is probably the size of most London flats. Parts of the garden smell of the garlic used to keep off snails and other garden annoyances. To retain its organic label awarded yearly by the Soil Association, Clarence House can’t use any pesticide. 

After the grounds, in the neighbouring St James’s Palace, comes the traditional gift shop where the Windsor’s business acumen is on full display. My tour was less than a month after Prince George’s birth but the store was already selling a book on royal babies, included the Cambridge one, a limited edition teddy and some blue-themed china. 

Clarence House is now closed until next summer but if you happen to be in London in August 2014, it’s definitely worth a tour. The visit costs under £10 and takes about one hour. 

Posted at 4:36pm and tagged with: Royal Family, exhibition review, london,.

Latest in the blurring of fashion and art trend is Chanel’s traveling exhibition The Little Black Jacket, currently showing in Paris after stints in Tokyo, New York and London, where I got to see it.

Focused on one classic little black jacket (LBJ) personalised ad infinitum in the Chanel ateliers to the dimensions and wishes of the personalities wearing it, the exhibition aims to show, through pictures styled by Carine Roitfeld and shot by Karl Lagerfeld, the eternal elegance, staying power and versatility of the garment.

In London, the Little Black Jacket is showed at the Saatchi gallery, a fitting space for a project which holds more to grandiose marketing and the desire to create buzz than straight ‘art’. The pictures and the quality of their printing might be beautiful, but the concept linking them feels tenuous.

The exhibition could be split into two categories: the people who wear the jacket as they would in their daily life, and the ones, mostly models, who wear it styled, fashion editorial-like.

Rather than Lulu Gainsbourg wearing his father trademark white Zizi shoes, Sofia Coppola in a stripy t-shirt or Alice Dellal complementing her LBJ with a studded leather jacket, I would have liked to see Roitfeld style them in an unexpected way, challenging not only their style, but also her own styling.

As for the more fashion editorial pictures, Freja Beha Erichsen wearing the jacket nun-like is reminiscent of POP's Autumn September 2008 issue. Men wearing an LBJ have already been done, say for the March 2009 issue of Paris Vogue tribute to Coco Chanel, in an editorial photographed by Lagerfeld and styled by Roitfeld (already).

If I stopped for long in front of any picture, it wasn’t because I was taken aback by an unexpected styling choice or photographic angle but rather to rack my brain trying to remember which fashion editorial a pose or a garment reminded me of. The only possible exception was Roitfeld, who dressed herself as Coco Chanel, in a move which could either be seen as tongue-in-cheek or self-aggrandising.

A sure crowd pleaser, the exhibition was a safe move by Chanel, which has so far guaranteed the brand thousands of mentions on social media and in the press, multiplied every time the show moves to a new city. I did not expect anything radical from the exhibition, considering it was staged by Chanel itself, but a little more imagination would have suggested that in addition to lasting that long, the little black jacket has a long life ahead.

All photos from The Little Black Jacket Chanel exhibition

Posted at 9:20am and tagged with: chanel, exhibition review, photography,.

Commemorating his century-old attempt to reach the South Pole first, Scott’s last Expedition at London’s Natural History Museum recounts British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctica journey through never seen before artefacts and extracts from his and his team’s journals.

Everything about this exhibition works: the space, modeled on the Terra Nova’s Cape Evans camp, the artefacts on display showing how the expedition was prepared and at the end, testimonies of 21st century scientists to show Scott’s scientific legacy.

The exhibition is presented in chronological order: quick background of Scott and his team, preparing for the expedition, daily life at Cape Evans, Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard’s quest for the emperor penguin eggs and finally Scott, Oates, Evans, Bowers and Wilson’s doomed trip to the South Pole presented in parallel with Roald Amundsen’s own expedition.

Scott left London in 1910, on his second expedition to the Antarctic. He aimed to reach the South Pole and to carry out scientific discoveries spanning meteoroloy, glaciology, geology, biology and zoology. Even though some theories his team set out to prove, such as the link between the Emperor penguin and human kind, now seem ridiculous, their expedition brought back rocks which helped prove the theory of continental drift as well as samples of specifies unknown to mankind, now making up a significant part of the Natural History Museum collections.

As the visitor explores all sides of Scott’s expedition, he is presented with facts and artefacts but little analysis. Although curators have overall introduced the expedition in a positive light, ignoring for instance the controversy set by John Gordon Hayes and Roland Huntford over Scott’s transport strategy, they let the visitor make up his mind from what history and science know, making the display doubly interactive and engaging.  

Scott’s Last Expedition at the Natural History Museum (London) until 2 September. Tickets from £5.50

Photo: The Natural History Museum website

Posted at 4:57pm and tagged with: exhibition review,.

With Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, the Victoria & Albert museum put together a one dimensional exhibition which, though charming and enticing, lacks depth. Five sections chronicle the collaboration between British photographer Beaton and three generations of Royals and introduce the visitor to his character and career. 

In real life, these beautiful, well-known photographs have a real pull and depth of detail but the chronological angle is rather flat. Curator Susanna Brown could have added analysis by showing how Beaton evolved the tradition of royal portraiture or how he’s influenced the current generation of royal photographers. Or she could have explored how his talent for, in Queen Mum’s own words, “producing” the royals as “really quite nice and real people”, choosing to go from romantic, formal poses displaying the traditional attributes of power to casual family portraits has changed the way we perceive the Windsors. Did Beaton open the communication can of worms or was he merely following and feeding the growing public appetite for seeing the Royals as one of us?

In a testament to Beaton’s talent for allowing a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes of royal life, it’s impossible not to want to know more about his creative process and the strategy behind his pictures. Besides a letter from the Queen Mum, there’s barely a royal correspondence in sight, leaving much of the relationship between the photographer and his subjects to imagination. The exhibition is told from the single, biased viewpoint of the gushing, sometimes anxious quotes from Beaton’s diaries on how well each and every shoot went. For a museum which has accustomed regulars to interactive exhibitions pulling from a range of media, the mere three short documentaries on display are disappointing.  Seeing in real life some of dresses, jewels and backdrops pictured would also have added relief to the portraits.

After its stint at the V&A, the exhibition will be touring the country and the Commonwealth to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee, in keeping with the original aim of the photographs, described by Brown as “PR, not family portraits”. This is an exhibition to the monarch’s glory, with no nuance. Fitting in a Jubilee year but it nonetheless leaves the visitor wanting more. Beaton depicts a vanilla, pre-Diana-Camilla royal family, a carefully orchestrated comm exercise difficult to swallow after years of tabloid headlines.

Pictures from the V&A website: Queen Elizabeth II with her Maids of Honour by Cecil Beaton (Gelatin silver print, 2 June 1953, Museum no. PH.1530-1987); Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Andrew by Cecil Beaton (Gelatin silver print, Buckingham Palace, March 1960, Museum no. PH.1806-1987)

Queen Elizabeth II and Cecil Beaton at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, until 22 April 2012

Posted at 9:52am and tagged with: exhibition review, victoria and albert museum, Royal Family,.

With its characteristic blend of artefacts, multimedia and short, analytical captions, the Victoria & Albert Museum has staged an introduction to the world of Postmodernism. Covering architecture as well as music, interior design, ballet, and fashion, the show gets lost in a flurry of information but always falls back on its feet thanks to easy parallels between the curation and the movement itself. Just like Postmodernism, it lacks clear cohesion and some of its displays can be interpreted as either ironic or downright pointless and ugly (teapot that won’t pour tea anyone?).

Defined by exhibition co-curator Glenn Adamson as “defying definition but the perfect subject for an exhibition”, postmodernism

was visually thrilling, a multifaceted style that ranged from the colourful to the ruinous, the ludicrous to the luxurious. What it always maintained was a drastic departure from modernism’s utopian visions, which had been based on clarity and simplicity. […] Postmodernism, was more like a broken mirror, a reflecting surface made of many fragments. Its key principles were complexity and contradiction.

The exhibition succeeds in covering all aspects of the movement: artefacts from the 70s and 80s, including Memphis furniture and a Terry Jones-drawn cover of i-D, cover the “multifaceted” aspect; a film with Grace Jones, poster woman for the exhibition, and a reproduction of Hans Hollein’s gigantic Strada Novissima, The Presence of the Past, take care of the “visually thrilling”.

Organised chronologically around the underlying question of  Postmodernism’s failure, the exhibition displays in a single room Andy Warhol’s 1981 Dollar Sign, Jeff Koons’ 1986 stainless steel bust of Louis XIV and a yellow sequined Chanel jacket by Karl Lagerfeld.

Despite the 1990 cut-off point, it’s impossible not to draw parallels with current day design, be it the overbearing presence of brands and logos, art as the ultimate form of consumption or the current obsession with referencing past decades (in our case, the 1960s rather than Greek antiquity or the 18th century). Money still doesn’t mind if you say it’s evil. The midst of a financial crisis might have been the perfect time for such an exhibition underlying the ambivalence of Postmodern artists towards money, both wanting and rejecting it.

Because of this collusion between the postmodern years and ours, it’s difficult to see the exhibition objectively. Introducing any design current to the museum is no easy feast  and the V&A was brave enough to stage the first extensive show on the topic. It will deserve many more, once we, as a society, have sorted out our feelings towards the reactionary postmodernist message.

Postmodernism Style and Subversion 1970-1990 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, until 15 January 2012. Tickets from £8

Images: Grace Jones maternity dress, 1979. Photo: Jean-Paul Goude; Hans Hollein’s facade for the Venice Biennale in 1980. Biennale of Architecture, Venice from The Daily Telegraph; Protect me from what I Want, Holzer

Posted at 10:02am and tagged with: exhibition review, karl lagerfeld, Postmodernism, art, Victoria and Albert museum,.

Take advantage of the week left to visit the Glamour of the Gods exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery because it will change the way you see Old Holywood. Mixing iconic portraits with more candid pictures, big names with forgotten names, Clark Gable’s good looks with Michelle Morgan’s eyes, the show displays pictures from the John Kobal’s Foundation collection. There are glamourous and iconic shots of Marlon Brando in his white tee-shirt, Marlene Dietrich in a perfect white shirt and Louise Brooks with the longest strand of white pearls, photos so ingrained in our collective memory they now define our vision and understanding of glamour. This is the glamour the magazines keep telling us about, bygone years when the studio ruled the game, when being gay could get you kicked out of Los Angeles, when lips were bright red and photography black and white. Those perfect pictures aren’t as true to life as many anti-Photoshop campaigns would have you believe: on display is a series of photos with the before, the after and everything that got changed in between. Some of the pictures are haunting or spooky, like Mary Pickford photographed in her wedding dress looking like she’s on her death bed or Vivien Leigh sporting Scarlett’s mad eyes. Yesterday just like today, pictures of stars aimed at capturing perfection, be it staged or not.

Picture from The Daily Telegraph

Posted at 6:56pm and tagged with: exhibition review, cinema, photography,.

As a Palace, Buckingham is probably up there with Chambord and Chenonceau, with that little difference of being the residence of a working Queen. If nothing else, the British monarchy has one advantage: it keeps the place in perfect condition. Although not yet 200 years old in its current form, Buckingham Palace displays collections of Sèvre china and paintings to compete with many a Loire castle I’ve visited (and I’ve visited them all). The Van Dyck were as elegant as I hoped, and I didn’t feel as underwhelmed by Winterhalter’s The Royal Family in 1846 as I had when seeing David’s Le Sacre de Napoléon in Le Louvre.

The two temporary exhibitions on Royal Fabergé and the wedding dress were however quite disappointing. The dress could have done with context in addition to Sarah Burton explaining its inspiration, design and craftsmanship. It would have been nice to see it alongside Catherine’s evening dress, the bridesmaids attire, Pippa and children included. Instead, we’re left with the dress under a grey mosquito net, the shoes, bouquet reproduction and earrings in a case so small its hard to see what’s inside, and the cake. I don’t know whether the exhibition had been planned ahead of the wedding or whether it was a quick, cash-in decision but it felt like a lot more time could have been spent on its curation and on gathering related items. Unless the Cambridges’ popularity wanes all of a sudden (which at this point seems unlikely), waiting one more year wouldn’t have hurt.

As for the dress itself, it’s even more beautiful and tiny in real life than it was on TV. Sarah Burton explains how it is appliquéd with floral motives from six different laces representing the United Kingdom and how the train was reinforced with a canvas-like fabric to make sure it always kept its shape. Seeing the work it required up close partially makes up for the limited number of pieces on display.

Summer opening of the State Romms, Buckingham Palace, until 3 October. Tickets from £17.50 for adults

Posted at 10:00am and tagged with: Royal Family, Cambridge, exhibition review,.

In an industrial-feeling space specifically set up for the occasion, the Victoria & Albert museum is throwing a retrospective of twenty years of Yohji Yamamoto. Covering all aspects of the Japanese designer career, the fashion, the CDs, the movies, the karate, the exhibition is a very basic and very alive introduction to his work.

Neither chronological nor narrative, the retrospective mostly focuses on Yamamoto’s work on textiles and his mixing menswear and womenswear. His career is represented through an installation of TVs screening his key catwalks and sixty or so outfits displayed on mannequins. At eyes height and not encased in glass, those dummies allow the visitor to get very close to the snap buttons of a yellow strapless silk dress, to admire the purity of a long black dress and the easiness of a white cashmere off-the-shoulder dress. Even though the Yamamoto menswear cliché includes a skirt, most outfits display trousers. Not that any of those trousers could be mistaken for your traditional slacks: the fluidity of line and fabric blends are undoubtedly Yamamoto.

In addition to the main installation, Yamamoto garments are spread throughout the museum, in galleries displaying an intimate link with his work. An ingenious way to explore his work and inspiration in depth, and no doubt to interest people into buying an exhibition ticket.

Curating Yamamoto at the V&A with Ligaya Salazar from Natascha Nanji on Vimeo.

Yahji Yamamoto is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London until 10 July 2011

Pictures from the V&A website

I also recommend the exhibition curator’s blog.

Posted at 6:32pm and tagged with: Yohji Yamamoto, exhibition review, V&A,.

Visiting the Grace Kelly, Style icon exhibition was an extremely anti-climatic experience. After many near-visits, prevented by sold-out slots, and the amount of press the event had gathered, including a lengthy spread in Vanity Fair, I expected to get out with a better understanding of who Grace Kelly was, and how her style evolved. I was in for a big disappointment.

The exhibition is rather small. Relegated to Room 40, at the center of the V&A fashion gallery, it only shows 30 or so outfits, mostly dresses and a few skirt suits. Nearly all of them, with the notable exception of an Yves Saint Laurent dress, are official attires, which really doesn’t tell anything about Kelly’s real style. I believe that a woman’s style is best judged based on what she wears away from prying eyes. Dresses worn at balls and for official ceremonies tell a lot about the persona she wanted to project, but little about who she was on a day-to-day basis.

Jenny Lister, the exhibition curator organised the dresses by designers rather than chronologically. Although this clearly shows how much Kelly loved Marc Bohan’s work at Dior, it makes getting an overall idea of her style evolution throughout her 26 years at the Principauté difficult.

Alongside nearly every garment is a picture of Kelly wearing it, which gives the exhibition a feel of authenticity. Unfortunately, the pictures are often too small. The number of people in the room when I went meant that it was impossible to really spend time looking at them or at the dresses in details.

Star dresses, aside from her Edith Head Oscar outfit, are not on display. Her wedding dress, which was both her last movie costume, since the ceremony was her last film with MGM, and her first dress as a real-life princess, is nowhere to be seen.

Despite a Van Cleef & Arpel sponsorship, accessories, including jewels, hats, spectacles and the infamous Hermes Kelly handbags, are relegated to few display cases. Kelly found fame as an actress, but the two screens showing extracts of her movie and films of her Monaco life are placed in such a way that standing in front of them for too long blocks the flow of exhibition visitors.

After 15 minutes in Room 40, I left feeling that the V&A had put together a blockbuster exhibition aimed at making money and gathering press interest but caring little about what the visitor would get out of it.

Grace Kelly, Style Icon, is on at the V&A until September 26th. Adult tickets cost £6, and early booking is strongly encouraged

Top banner is from the V&A website; Grace Kelly with Prince Albert of Monaco Photo: REX Daily Telegraph website; Grace Kelly with her Oscar ® award, 30 March 1955, © Hulton Archive/Getty Images, also from the V&A site

Posted at 8:34pm and tagged with: exhibition review, Grace Kelly, classy film,.