To kick off a trend is one thing. To set the standards for decades of women’s fashion is next-level influence.
An influencer before it was mainstream, actress and princess Grace Kelly is the kind of trendsetter that inspires gasps. Whether it’s the *chef’s kiss* blue champagne color of her Oscar gown or the high-waisted swagger of her bedazzled trousers in Cannes, her fashion moments always strike the right note, making her into a style icon for generations of women and designers. If Grace Kelly wore it, you know it’s a look. From nipped waists to diamond drop earrings, Grace Kelly’s picks belong in your closet. Start with these five must-haves to build a capsule wardrobe Princess Grace would be proud of.
Grace Kelly is no stranger to bling. She wore everything from multi-strand diamond necklaces to ruby tiaras—but her go-to baubles were most often lustrous pearls. Whether paired with off-the-shoulder gowns or button-down blouses, worn as a necklace or as simple drop earrings, she made pearls her calling card no matter the outfit. Far from old fashioned, Princess Grace’s pearls often stood out as a modern counterpoint to more statement pieces like a mink shawl or cat-eye sunglasses. Whether worn head-to-toe by Lupita Nyong’o or paired with a suit and knits à la Harry Styles, who run the world? Pearls.
Grace Kelly wasn’t afraid to go above and beyond when it came to hair—especially if her ̓do was part of a costume. As designer Edith Head noted, Princess Grace’s hair was as much a part of her wardrobe as Her gowns.
“What Grace has is an elegance all her own; the white gloves are a trademark, so is the smooth hair. She looks that way even after sleeping all night on a plane."
From French twists to braided crowns, Grace Kelly’s hairstyles are all-out glamour. Fashion vloggers love to replicate her swept back blond curls—all you need is matte skin and a red pout and you’ve completed the Grace Kelly beauty trinity. Whether she wore her hair tied back with a silk Hermès scarf or in an elaborate updo, Princess Grace had the natural ability to carry off a look: it’s all in the neck. Remember when Elizabeth Banks and Diane Kruger were spotted at the Venice Film Festival in a set of sweeping updos? Peak Grace Kelly.
As Grace Kelly was starting her film career, Christian Dior debuted the “New Look.” The nipped waistline, fitted bodice, and full circle skirt was a silhouette Grace Kelly took and ran with. Its influence can be seen in her most famous gown: her wedding dress, designed by Helen Rose and featuring a long-sleeved lace top and flared skirt. But a wedding isn’t required to dress to the nines: take notes from Thandi Newton in Jason Wu or Joey King in Zac Posen to try this contrast in proportions. For fashion bonus points, go monochrome: Grace Kelly loved a full outfit in one color.
Tailored Two-Piece Sets
Grace Kelly’s confidence helped her pull off any look, but she wasn’t afraid to go simple. When it came to casual dressing, she chose tailored pants, button-down blouses, black sleeveless turtlenecks, and streamlined two-piece sets—basics at home in any stylish closet. This minimalist approach to dressing came across as effortless and fuss-free—the kind of clothes that just feel right. Shades of Grace Kelly can be seen in Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge’s white Alexander McQueen skirt suit, above, and in this CEO-meets-siren Altuzarra look from Rihanna.
Mention Grace Kelly to a fashion follower and you’ll end up talking about the Hermès Kelly bag. The bag was originally selected by famous designer Edith Head as a costume piece for the movie To Catch a Thief—and while the bag didn’t make the final cut, it did make it into Princess Grace’s wardrobe. Originally named the “Sac à dépêches” when it made its debut in 1935, the high-handled, structured leather satchel became an immediate essential after Princess Grace was seen carrying it in 1956, shielding herself—and her pregnancy—from the paparazzi. Seizing its moment, Hermès asked to rename the bag after her. The Hermès Kelly handbag is a flawless example of Princess Grace’s fashion philosophy: well-made things are always in style. Miranda Kerr and Beyoncé are just a few of the celebs who agree.
Her love for design and her ability to wear just the right thing solidified Grace Kelly as a fashion influencer. But it wasn’t just the designer pieces and fine jewelry that made her style so iconic—she wore what she liked, with confidence. Which is the kind of fashion fairy dust available to everyone.
Grace Kelly was an inspiring dresser—and a loyal friend. Read on to learn about her long association with Frank Sinatra.
Credits: Princess Grace Foundation, Princess Grace Foundation, Cubankite / Shutterstock Inc., Princess Grace Foundation, A Fall From Grace, Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock Inc., Princess Grace Foundation, MaciejGillert / Shutterstock Inc., Princess Grace Foundation