The long-awaited Grace of Monaco premiered Wednesday evening at the 67th Festival de Cannes—and has been widely panned since. While the movie may not have lived up to its hype, its wardrobe, especially the clothing worn by Nicole Kidman, who plays the film’s namesake, may just be its saving grace.
This depressing biopic depicts the marriage between Grace Kelly and her husband, Prince Rainer III of Monaco, as a cold-spirited union endured by an unhappy woman trapped between loyalty to her husband and her Hollywood career.
For Nicole Kidman’s Grace, costume designer Gigi Lepage re-created 44 looks from the style icon’s wardrobe, performing extensive research and working with many of Kelly’s favorite designers to make sure she got the princess’s look just right. During the process, Lepage was able to collaborate with some of the biggest names in fashion.
“The house of Christian Dior reproduced two magnificent women’s suits designed by Marc Bohan, then-artistic director of the house, for Nicole Kidman,” Lepage told The Daily Beast. “Chanel collaborated with us in re-creating a suit ensemble. Hermes helped us for her scarves, as well as Kelly handbag archives. All of her gloves were made exclusively by Maison Fabre. Lastly, Swarovski came on board for the realization of the crystal ball gown.”
According to Lepage, Kelly’s favorite designer changed year-by-year. “In 1962/63, I would say Dior. Then after that it was Saint Laurent and then Chanel,” she said.
Lepage relied on historical photos of Grace Kelly for inspiration and to help decide which pieces to recreate for the movie.
“I reproduced pieces where I could. One example is the blue dress with a belt. I saw many times a picture of her with that dress and I liked it,” Lepage said. “I saw a lot of times a ceremonial dress she had on for different occasions, so I decided to reproduce that. It was made by Lanvin in 1966 for the ceremony after her civil marriage. She used to wear that beautiful dress with a sash with all of the crosses of Monaco. I saw pictures at the opera, so I said we have to have that dress.”
“She was a princess and she was living in this period where everything was so large. You didn’t buy one dress, you bought 10.”
Lepage’s research also led her to lesser-known designers who had worked with the princess on specific aspects of her wardrobe. One, in particular, was Jean Barthet, the milliner behind all of Kelly’s hats, who Lepage discovered through his son, Alexandre Barthet.
“I thought it was really interesting to research who worked around her at the time for hats, gloves, and glasses,” Lepage explained. “I found a name on the Net and found Alexandre Barthet. His father did all of the hats for Grace. He sent me some original newspaper cuttings where you can see all of the collections that she ordered. Also in the movie, we see when she is in Cartier dressed in blue with a purple hat she has a box with the name Barthet.”
Lepage also discovered Philippine Pinto, granddaughter of Francois Pinton, Kelly’s eyewear designer. “I found the granddaughter, and she told me lots of colorful stories. Grace of Monaco used to buy plenty of pairs of glasses. You can read how she loved glasses.”
Not all 44 looks made it in the final cut of the film, but there are plenty of royal looks to see, from Kelly’s bottle-green jodhpurs to lots of pale pastels and feminine looks that the princess was known for, including girly dresses with cinched waists and sophisticated white coats that jutted out at an angle.
“One of the most important aspects for a character film is the costumes because they become a character from this period,” she said. “It was not a big challenge to dress Nicole Kidman as Grace of Monaco because she is so graceful and she has such a beautiful body. It is a dream to dress like a model. She is taller but it does not matter. The biggest challenge was the hair and the makeup, but with these three together, she became Grace of Monaco.”
Even more important than her outfits, however, is the jewelry, a staple in Grace Kelly’s wardrobe. Kelly was a loyal client of Cartier, and the jeweler agreed to provide the jewelry for the film. Some original pieces were loaned to the movie while others were re-created, but overall there was so much bling on set that two bodyguards had to accompany Kidman during filming.
“As a devoted client, Grace Kelly, later Princess Grace of Monaco, maintained a loyal relationship with the jeweler in Paris and Monaco. Cartier created the 10.47-carat emerald-cut diamond engagement ring, which she was given by Prince Rainier III in 1956. For her wedding she received numerous gifts of Cartier jewelry, such as a diamond and ruby tiara and a necklace composed of three strands of diamonds,” the house said in a press release.
“Faithful reproductions of five of these royal jewelery pieces were produced in the ateliers of the Maison, with the consent of the Sovereign House of Monaco. The original creations are part of the royal jewels of Monaco,” they added.
It is a sign of how important the jeweler was in the princess’s life that the Cartier boutique at 13 rue de la Paix in Paris provides the backdrop for the final scene of the film, in which Princess Grace sparkles in the company’s jewelry as she announces to the press that she is giving up her Hollywood career to dedicate herself to her family and royal obligations.
In the end, it may not be completely off base that the wardrobe is the star of the movie. Grace Kelly had a huge wardrobe and adored fashion, after all. “She was a princess and she was living in this period where everything was so large,” Lepage said. “You didn’t buy one dress, you bought 10.”