By  on October 16, 2007

Twenty-five years after her death, Princess Grace's style remains a source of inspiration for designers and consumers alike, and Sotheby's new exhibition "Grace, Princess of Monaco, A Tribute to the Life and Legacy of Grace Kelly" should further stoke that interest.

Upon entering what is as much tribute as exhibit, the first of 500 personal items that visitors see include a short silk lamé Balenciaga dress, an electric blue Givenchy waffle-texture silk dress with a cropped jacket and the Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian jersey shift she wore to hand out presents to some of the principality's children at the 1965 palace Christmas party. Often more modern than grand, some of the 20 dresses displayed are from Kelly's single days, when she was one of Hollywood's hardest-working actresses, as evidenced by the Oscar she won in 1954, and a reference to Life magazine declaring 1954 the "Year of Grace."

Of course, her fairy-tale story still stands up over time, too — the all-American woman from a wealthy Philadelphia family makes good on the silver screen before abruptly giving it up to marry a prince who reigns over the then little-known Monaco. Her early death at 52 in a slope-side car accident in September 1982 only heightened the lore, and on Friday, the BBC reported that her daughter Stephanie, the only passenger in the car, publicly denied for the first time that she had been driving.

Oversize scrims imprinted with images of Kelly hang throughout the Sotheby's gallery to remind visitors of her life's various chapters. In addition to the designer duds and eye-popping diamonds, the exhibit includes the brown Hermès Kelly bag the princess once used to shield her pregnancy from the paparazzi, the 77-carat tiara she wore to her daughter Caroline's wedding in 1978, scores of personal letters including several to "Hitch" — better known as Alfred Hitchcock — and dozens of photos of her flashing her signature style. There's even a handwritten memo with her weight and measurements on her 40th birthday — 122 pounds, 35 1/2 inches, 27 inches, 37 inches. While Kelly was known to be one with a quick smile and well-worn sense of humor, a remark she made that is featured in the show indicates she took her regal role rather seriously: "I became a princess before I even imagined what it would be like....I hope they will consider me a professional at my job, no matter what. When I take on something, I like to do it well and do it completely."

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