Grace Kelly (as Lisa Fremont) wears five separate outfits in Rear Window (1954) including one negligee. Three of these are exceptional standouts, each neatly representing a different sector of 1950s women’s fashion: dress, casual and tailored.
All will be covered in time, but for now let’s start with the ‘fresh from the Paris plane’ dress, as designed by Edith Head, unquestionably the most famous movie costumer of all time; known for her clean and elegant ‘taste maker’ style:
Fitted black bodice with deep V cut down to the bust and rear to the small of the back, off the shoulder neckline, cap sleeves.
Here Head actually seems to pre-date the Christian Dior ‘Ligne Corolle’ (Corolle line) she so openly emulates (dubbed the ‘New Look’ by American Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow, depending on who you ask) by forerunning the ‘Y’ silhouette as showcased by Dior for his 1955 collection.
Full skirt to mid-calf, gathered and layered in chiffon and tulle, spray branch pattern on the hip, narrow black patent leather belt, nipped in waist.
The skirt wafts and swirls giving Kelly the presence of a ballerina. Incorporating the 1940s style floral spray is a typically delicate Head touch, softening the dress’ grandeur and hinting at the tomboyish, tree-climbing tendencies Lisa demonstrates when scaling Thorwald’s apartment later in the film.
Black high heeled shoes with asymmetric straps. White chiffon shoulder wrap. White Elbow length silk gloves. Short, single row pearl necklace.
A shoulder wrap was common to the time as many haute couture gowns were either off the shoulder or strapless. The gloves are worn pushed down towards the wrists slightly – another style touch very much in vogue for the fifties.
Really this might be the most famous and copied outfit Grace Kelly ever wore (Kelly lookalike January Jones sported something similar in the ‘Shoot’ episode of sixties set TV drama Mad Men).
The look certainly establishes her most enduring cinematic image of ultra-feminised chicness; an image that unlike, say, Rita Hayworth’s contrived and performative screen sexuality, Kelly encapsulated in real life as well.
© 2009 – 2013, Christopher Laverty.