Guest Designer Diaries – Princess Grace and Christian Dior (Part One!)

Hofdame Note: A huge thank you to our Baguette Royal Warrant for this incredible Designer Diary. The intrepid Baguette did actual on-the-ground research for this post. Please do not reproduce the photos elsewhere as they remain her property. Enjoy!


Fate sometimes gives us opportunities that are worth sharing with friends.  My husband took me on a fun-filled road trip to tick off one of my bucket list stops in the USA:  Winterthur – the du Pont family home, now a museum, in Winterthur, Delaware.  I highly recommend this destination!!!  It’s worthy of its own blog article, but alas, has no royalty connections.  I was there to see the exhibit on the restoration of the White House by Jacqueline Kennedy.  The restoration was chaired by Henry Francis du Pont.  It was amazing.

While researching other stops in the area I discovered to my delight that another museum I visited in the late 1990s was hosting an exhibit on Princess Grace and her fantastic wardrobe designed by the Christian Dior.  The trip pretty much planned itself, including some stunning autumn colors that this girl from south Texas had never seen before.   This exhibit was presented by Hillwood Museum, the former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post in Washington, DC.

I did ask why Hillwood was exhibiting these garments.  Was there a connection between Princess Grace and Mrs. Post?  They told me that one of their researchers has a close relationship with other members of the Christian Dior firm and they just sorta made this show happen.  The family of Prince Albert are not actively involved with Hillwood but did gladly share these garments on display.

Christian Dior (1905-1957) had been one of Grace Kelly’s favorite designers during her award-winning acting career.  Following Dior’s death in 1957, creative directorship of the fashion house soon fell to one of its designers – Marc Bohan, who came to see the princess as a muse, and with her, created an ideal of refined, modern elegance.

Princess Grace’s wardrobe is preserved at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco.  The selected dresses on exhibition reflect the harmonious relationship between the House of Dior and the princess. 

Princess Grace’s style was world renowned.  She represented the ideal princess – friendly and accessible in understated day wear, distinguished and radiant in fabulous evening dresses.  She died tragically in 1982 at the age of 52.

Daytime Ensembles

For official daytime engagements Princess Grace preferred simplicity, wearing shirtdresses, wool suits and fitted coats.  Distinguished and understated, elegant and charming – these words describe her style.

1973 Grey Suit

1971 Padded Silk and Wool Crepe Coat

1973 Navy Silk Surah

The “Bayadere” Dress

Below is a photo of Princess Grace walking during the documentary film Monte Carlo:  C’est la Rose.  She is wearing the Bayadere dress from the Spring-Summer 1967 Haute Couture collection.

With its broad stripes, the bayadere fabric is linked, in the history of textiles, to the fabrics worn by female Indian dancers.  The “bayadere” theme gained popularity in the nineteenth century, firstly when a troupe of dancers from Pondicherry toured Europe in 1838, and then with the success of the eponymous Marius Petipa ballet, created in Saint Petersburg in 1877.

This dress is one of Marc Bohan’s most famous designs from his time as the House’s artistic director.  Numerous clients ordered it, including Olivia de Havilland, Maria Felix and Jacqueline de Ribes, while Princess Grace wore it on several occasions. 

With its jewel-effect Vermont embroidery ( ) at the neckline and the wrists, Marc Bohan’s “bayadere” caftan represented the quintessentially glamorous and relaxed style of parties illuminated by Princess Grace’s presence.  In 1968 the film Monte Carlo:  C’est la Rose revealed the charms of the Principality while observing Princess Grace wearing the “bayadere” dress as she symbolized the delights of life in Monaco.

Would you like to see it in movement? Of course you do!

The Crepe Georgette Gown

This dress has a beautifully embellished bodice, all the better to charm one of Grace’s famous friends from her single days – yes, that *is* Cary Grant with the Princess.

The Diorama Dress

The dress pictured below is Christian Dior by Marc Bohan.  It’s called the “Diorama dress”. It is a beautiful dress done up in black mousseline and lace, from the Spring-Summer 1965 Haute Couture collection, on loan from the Prince’s Palace of Monaco collection. 

The Diorama Dress

While standing in front of this black cocktail dress I had to exert a lot of self-control to keep from turning the mannequin around to see what the back of this wonderful dress looked like.  The sheer chiffon used on the bodice, shoulders and sleeves had no visible seams.  What looks like seams are the arms of the mannequin attached to the body of the mannequin.  I stood in front of this dress the longest.  I adore this cocktail dress.

The Grand Gowns

The grand evening outfits were reserved for the Bal de la Rose and the Red Cross Gala, along with family weddings. Below is the gown Grace wore to the 1976 Rose Ball (bonus, a very young Princess Caroline sighting!)

Embed from Getty Images

A particularly glamorous pink gown was worn to the 1972 Red Cross Ball – check out the fabulous evening coat!

This green and white gown with a sheer cape was worn to the wedding of Jack Kelly in 1981, one of the last of Grace’s glamorous appearances. (Yes, that is Albert dancing with his mother!)


Stay tuned for Part Two next week!