Royal Style | Behind the scenes at the Grace Kelly exhibition, Paleis Het Loo with curator Trudie Rosa de Carvalho


Grace Kelly is the epitome of sophisticated royal style, and her influence can be seen in the fashion choices of many of our modern royals.

The Paleis Het Loo, located in Apeldoorn, Netherlands recently held 'Grace Kelly: Princess and Style Icon.' This glorious exhibition presented the unique story of the fascinating life of Princess Grace of Monaco using clothes, accessories, film clips and photographs to bring to life her unique story. I first saw this exhibition when it was at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 2010. It is perhaps the best exhibition I've ever seen, and I loved seeing the costumes from the film High Society. 

For this special Royal Style post, I spoke to Trudie Rosa de Carvalho, curator Costume & Textiles at Palace Het Loo. Trudie played a leading role in curating the Grace Kelly exhibition, and her insights are fascinating! 

Tell us about the recent Grace Kelly exhibition that was held at Paleis Het Loo and your role in putting it together.

The Grace Kelly exhibition was originally planned from June 5th-27th October 2014, but due to its great success, it was extended until the 5th of January 2015. The negotiations with the Grimaldi Forum Monaco were already in an advanced stage when I entered the project and the decision was made to use the former Grace Kelly exhibition in the V&A as initial concept as framework. Palace Het Loo is a former Royal Palace, and we wanted to give more attention to Grace Kelly as princess, and as the human being behind the style icon. 

As curator of costume & textiles I was responsible for the content of the exhibition. I revised the texts, wrote the exhibition plan, and worked with the designer of the exhibition, Tatyana van Walsum and her assistant Peter Schermer, to supervise the concept. I was also partly responsible for the organisation of the official opening in the presence of our king Willem-Alexander and Prince Albert II of Monaco. 

What were the highlights and challenges working on this particular exhibition?

One of the highlights was the arrival of all the dresses and accessories in big wooden caskets and the unpacking! Most of the objects I had only seen in small stamp like images and in all the books I had read about Grace Kelly. But the real thing is quite different- the fabrics and the technique of the manufacturing are beautiful, especially when you see the details. This was also due to the fact that most costumes were mostly made by American and French couturiers.

What were your favourite items in the collection?

This is always a difficult question because the answer is a matter of taste, and about taste one cannot argue. I like noble simplicity in clothes. One of my favorites was a beautiful 1964 Lanvin richly embroidered dress especially made for formal occasions. I also liked the 1965 Yves St. Laurent Mondriaan dress and the two-piece suit with very old embroided lace designed by Helen Rose for the civil wedding. In general I liked the dresses from the fifties and sixties most.

Why do you think the world remains fascinated with Grace Kelly and her life?

Grace Kelly’s life is a fairy-tale like story about the ‘Queen of Hollywood’ marrying a real prince, and whose life on the screen became intertwined with her real life. The world admires her timeless taste, and awareness of how to dress with perfection, along with her strong character and independence. We also remain interested because the press remained fascinated by her- their ongoing attention didn’t stop after Grace Kelly became a princess, wife and mother. They kept following her throughout her life and this has cemented her in our collective awareness. 

What first attracted you to the world of museum conservation?

I was a late bloomer and only started my study in the history of art when I was 30 years old and the mother of three children. My husband shares the same story. He started two years before me and due to his enthusiasm his choice became my choice. I graduated with a subject related to royal interiors in the second half of the 18th century, but after working in the Rijksmuseum on the description of 18th century costume (which I adored because of the beautiful fabrics) I came to be a curator of costume and textiles.

What exhibitions are upcoming at Paleis Het Loo?

Our next exhibition is Sisi. Fairy Tale & Reality, opening on the 10th of April until the 28th of September 2015.

If you could work on any exhibition what would it be?

Next year I will be working on some great exhibitions! I would love to work with Isabelle de Borchgrave one day.

First: Paleis Het Loo, all others Trudie Rosa de Carvalho
Follow Trudie on Twitter and check out what exhibitions are next up at the Paleis! 

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