Icon and Muse: Grace Kelly – Classic Style in Lingerie and Swimwear

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In the fashion world ‘classic style’ refers to a look that is often simple, yet striking. Silhouettes are refined, colors are rich, and luxurious fabrics reign supreme. Classic style transcends decades and the fickle nature of “fashion.”

I’m sure I am not alone in my quest for the perfect black lace bra, screen siren-esque 1940s glamour robe, and perfect fitting full-brief knickers. Whatever your ‘classics’ may be, we all need items to anchor our seasonal wardrobe and act as perfect foundations for the purchases along the way.

Grace of Monaco has been released at the cinema, and inspires reflection on one of my favourite style icons: Grace Kelly. The Hollywood starlet who became a princess appeared in only 11 films, but that was all it took to make her one of the most enduring style icons of all time.

Grace’s style was renowned for its simplicity. Cinched-in waists, full skirts, crisp cotton shirts, and floaty chiffon. Pearls and lipstick were a staple. Grace had an identifiable colour palette which suited her and flowed throughout the seasons, regardless of trends. There are key looks within Grace Kelly’s film wardrobe we can consider and incorporate into our own classic lingerie wardrobe. 

The Sheer Little Black Dress

In Rear Window 1954, Grace Kelly wears a sheer black silk organza dress by famed costume designer Edith Head. The clean lines of the pleating, cinched-in waist, sheer sleeves, and dark lighting work together to create an air of film noir elegance and glamour. Take inspiration from this and look for robes and nightgowns in sheer fabrics such as silk chiffon, silk with lace appliqué, or just lace. Channel your inner femme fatale.

Kiss me Deadly - Elle Robe

Kiss me Deadly – Elle Robe

Betty Blue’s – Nell satin robe via Faire Frou Frou

Betty Blue’s – Nell satin robe via Faire Frou Frou

Dottie's Delights - Chantilly lace bra with ribbon bow via etsy

Dottie’s Delights – Chantilly lace bra with ribbon bow via etsy

The White Bikini

Grace Kelly wore white so well. In High Society (1956), Grace wears a white halter neck bikini. The top is skirted with gold clasps at the front and sides, and is worn with full bottoms. Another photo from the set of High Society shot by Howell Conant  shows Grace in a strapeless white bikini. While most women opt to wear black or a print at the beach, consider white for a fresh look. When shopping for white swimwear, go for classic shapes such as a bandeau and hipster or full brief, rather than a triangle and tie-side brazilian to maintain a timeless look. 

Seafolly – Goddess halter maillot

Seafolly – Goddess halter maillot

Seafolly - Goddess soft cup halter and pleated hipster

Seafolly – Goddess soft cup halter and pleated hipster

Norma Kamali - Bill mio maillot via Nancy Meyer

Norma Kamali – Bill mio maillot via Nancy Meyer

Red Dress with Lace Bolero

The red dress in Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954), designed by Edward Carrere, is a perfect example of 1950s ‘new look’ fashion. Pay attention to the beautiful lace cropped bolero. This is a classic piece of lingerie. Wear a cropped lace bolero for glamorous ‘lounging around,’ or consider wearing it as an outerwear piece like Grace did 60 years ago.

Baylis and Knight - Red Lace Bolero via Etsy

Baylis and Knight - Red Lace Bolero via Etsy

La Perla El Color Rojo Bra via Journelle

La Perla El Color Rojo Bra via Journelle

Fleet Collection - Lace Bolero via etsy

Fleet Collection - Lace Bolero via etsy

Tifary - Alencon lace bolero - etsy

Tifary – Alencon lace bolero – etsy

1940s Glamour Nightgown and Robe

Grace wears a stunning floor-length silk nightgown and sheer robe with kimono sleeves in Rear Window. Whilst the film was made in 1954, the nightgown is reminiscent of gowns from the 40s. A wonderful detail of this gown is the pleated underbust. This design feature creates more fullness in the bust, which is flattering on women of all sizes. The nightgown is finished with a ribbon bow, which creates a visually smaller waist. This is an easy addition to add to any nightgown. A silk nightgown and sheer robe is simply a wonderful ensemble… one easily worn today.

Christine Lingerie - Glamour gown silk. Shown in rose but available in other colours

Christine Lingerie – Glamour gown silk. Shown in rose but available in other colours

Christine Lingerie - Sugar and spice silk chiffon robe

Christine Lingerie - Sugar and spice silk chiffon robe

Girl with a serious dream - Grace silk and lace robe

Girl with a serious dream – Grace silk and lace robe

A few final notes on Colour, Fabric, Workmanship and Fit

When choosing classic lingerie and swimwear pieces, look for items that are refined in silhouette, style, and keep decoration to a minimum. Color should be neutral, which is always in style despite the changing seasonal palette. Consider colors you wear often, but don’t forget black. Just as a little black dress is never out of style, black lingerie is essential. Fabric should be mostly natural fibres. Look for garments that are mostly silk and cotton. In loungewear, avoid polyester. Always check the content labels if you are unsure.

When buying garments with lace, do your research. There are many machine-made laces out there. Some of them are lovelier than others. High quality laces used in lingerie are Leavers, Chantilly, embroidery and Guipure. I would suggest purchasing garments with rigid lace instead of stretch lace, where possible, for a more classic look. As the name suggests, rigid laces seem to hold shape longer than stretch laces. 

A well-made garment is key to its longevity. Do the seams ripple? Is there unsightly stitching? Understanding good quality is something that comes with time. Sometimes price does not denote good quality. Thoroughly check inside the garment and understand what the differences are between a high quality garment and an inferior product. Once you have experienced high quality garments, it is difficult to go back!

Fit is the most important element when purchasing a classic item. The reason Grace Kelly always looked immaculate is due to the fit of her garments. If you have a bra with too-long straps, they need to be shortened. Pulling at straps all day is not a good look.  If you have a robe that is too long at the hem, it needs to be taken up. In our world of ‘fast fashion’ we often dismiss items that may need a few small alterations to fit perfectly, or we accept an imperfect fit. While occasionally we may overlook a not-so-perfect fit in a fashion item, in a classic item, demand perfection. However, if it really doesn’t fit or too many alterations need to be made it may be best to walk away from the purchase.

What are your favourite Grace Kelly looks? How would you incorporate classic looks into your lingerie wardrobe?

Kathryn Wellington

Kathryn Wellington

Kathryn is a lingerie and swimwear garment technician from Sydney, Australia. Lover of all things vintage and lacy.

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5 Comments

  1. Maggie
    11/06/14 at 16:56

    Love this article! I try to emulate Grave Kelly in style, because she always looked chic, whether dressed up or down. And I admit, my mom and I like to watch Rear Window mostly for her various fabulous outfits. =)

    • Kathryn Wellington
      11/06/14 at 20:33

      Thanks Maggie! Grace Kelly was a beauty. Rear Window is one of my favourite movies to watch for inspiration also :)

  2. 11/06/14 at 20:40

    Thank you so much for sharing our Classic styles on this post Kathryn, lovely picks! Love Grace Kelly’s timeless style.
    Xoxo,
    Anita
    http://girlwithaseriousdream.blogspot.com/

    • Rachel
      12/06/14 at 23:26

      I am super impressed with your designs, Anita. My partner popped his head up when I gasped to ask what was wrong. “The most divine lace robe any mortal has ever seen! Come and gaze upon it!”

    • Kathryn Wellington
      13/06/14 at 21:41

      Thank you for making such lovely robes Anita and your photos are just gorgeous! x

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