Saturday, April 30, 2011

Classic Cinema Connection--the Spirit of Helen Rose in Kate Middleton's Wedding Gown

Now I was not one of the 2 billion people--roughly one third of the world's population--who watched the royal wedding on television yesterday. Nor was I one of the 1 million people who descended upon London to stand near Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace in order to feel part of the royal festivities.  I also was not one of the 1900 who were part of the wedding itself.  But I would honestly have to be living under a rock to miss the thousands of images now out there of the princess bride, Kate Middleton.

While in my serenely blissful state at the TCM Classic Film Festival yesterday, I happened to catch a photo of the wedding gown designed by the talented Sarah Burton, who now heads the house of McQueen after his tragic passing last year.  I immediately recognized something familiar...for the gorgeous gown is far less in the spirit of Lee Alexander McQueen and far more a replica of one of my favorite designers of all time, Helen Rose.

Helen Rose was not a fashion designer in the classic sense--she was actually the costume designer for MGM for many many years.  She won an Oscar for The Bad and the Beautiful and designed for countless other films including some of my personal favorites, such as Elizabeth Taylor's wardrobe in both Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Butterfield 8.  The movie Designing Woman happens to be based on Helen's life and her designing talent is marvelously modeled by Lauren Bacall throughout.

It is Helen who, along with Edith Head, has shaped my style more than anyone else.  You'll find both their names peppered throughout GlamAmor, including in my welcome and introduction to the site.  Their styles are similar in that they are both classic, embrace clean lines, and are very often quite colorful.  Interestingly, the two had a bit of a rivalry in Hollywood with Helen heading costume design at MGM and Edith heading costume design at Paramount.  That rivalry hit its absolute head when Grace Kelly chose Helen over Edith to design her gown when she wed Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956.  After all, Edith was responsible for much of Grace's image from dressing her in all the Hitchcock movies--think of Grace's wardrobe in Rear Window alone.  But Helen also dressed Grace, including in The Philadelphia Story remake High Society, and for whatever reason it was Helen who was given the honor of the real life royal gown.  Grace looked perfectly the princess in it, so it's no wonder that Kate Middleton was inspired and looks lovely in her modern homage to the original.

GlamAmor is all about showing the connection of today's trends in fashion with their true origins in classic cinema.  And here perhaps is the grandest example of this reality in the Helen Rose-inspired Sarah Burton wedding gown for the now Duchess of Cambridge.

Grace Kelly's original wedding dress, now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Grace Kelly's Wedding Dress and Accessories
Made in United States

Silk needle lace (rose point), silk faille, silk tulle, and seed pearls
Designed by Helen Rose, American, 1904 - 1985. Made by the wardrobe department of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Culver City, California, founded 1924. Worn by Grace Kelly at her marriage to Prince Ranier of Monaco, American (Philadelphia), 1929 - 1982. Gift of Her Serene Highness, the Princesse Grace de Monaco, 1956.

Helen Rose working on the wedding gown for Grace Kelly at MGM

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