| Becky Welander |
Credit: The Blonde at the Film (April 8, 2014)
To Catch a Thief plays at the Heights Cinema on Thursday, April 20 featuring a special lobby display of a dress designed by Becky Welander. Visit trylon.org for tickets and more information.
In 2010, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London put on an exhibit of clothing and accessories from Grace Kelly’s movies and personal wardrobe. I had the privilege of being in London in September of that year on honeymoon and was able to attend the exhibit. Here is a dorky picture of me outside the V & A, having just left the museum.
I remember my dad telling me that Grace Kelly had been his mother Grace’s favorite movie star. He also said that my grandma wasn’t a fan of Prince Rainier and felt he wasn’t good enough for Grace. She also regretted Kelly’s decision to quit acting when she got married. My grandma was a busy mother of four boys; she didn’t work outside the home and didn’t even have a driver’s license. I always felt like there was possibly some regret about her own life choices revealed in her feelings about Kelly’s marriage and career.
I think the first Grace Kelly movie I ever saw was Rear Window, which is one of my mother’s favorite movies. I grew up in a rural area where we didn’t have cable, only local TV channels. However, my mom raised me with an appreciation of Golden Age of Hollywood movies. So, whenever a local public television station aired classic Hollywood films during the day, that would be what my mom and I watched together.
To Catch a Thief is one of Kelly and Hitch’s most glamorous films. Although it is a great movie, I admit that I watch it mostly for Edith Head’s amazing costumes. Grace wears some gorgeous evening gowns in the film; however, it is her daytime looks that have always been my favorites. I think this is because they seem more accessible for my personal lifestyle. I rarely have the occasion to dress up in an evening gown, but I can generally come up with an excuse to swan around in a fancy sundress.
With this in mind, I have made a dress inspired by To Catch a Thief to wear when I return to London this summer.
Here are a few of my favorite Grace looks from the film that inspired my dress. I especially like the full skirts and use of contrasting trim in in these outfits.
These are some of the fabrics I considered for the dress.
Grace’s color palate in the film is largely white and pastels. I eventually went with the blue and white stripe seersucker with white trim for the dress. I chose seersucker partly for the color and for the fact that it’s a great summer fabric. My grandma Grace was also a seersucker fan. She favored pant suits over dresses and one of the suits she frequently wore was seersucker. I also liked the idea of incorporating stripes into the outfit as a nod to classic French striped Brenton tops similar to the t-shirts worn by Danielle and Robie in the film.
I have chosen Simplicity pattern 8384 as the basis for my dress.
I altered the bodice by removing the elastic at the back and replacing it with darts to give the bodice a closer fit. I also replaced the bottom with a simple gathered skirt and extended the front placket to the hem to make it a full shirtdress.
My choice to use a home sewing pattern for the project is also inspired by both Graces in my life. Like most women in the 40s and 50s, my grandma sewed many clothes for herself, my dad, and his brothers. Kelly also once famously wore a dress made from a home sewing pattern. For a photo shoot for Paris Match at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 (the first time Kelly met Prince Rainier), she wore a dress sewn from a McCall’s sewing pattern.1
Left: photo of Prince Rainier III of Monaco standing next to Grace Kelly (credit: Edward Quinn). Right: McCall’s pattern book, spring 1955 (credit: McCall’s).
I liked the idea of a full shirtdress with a gathered skirt that could also work as a beach coverup, much like the fabulous outfit that Kelly dons in the film to hit the beach.
I made a full muslin to test out all of the alterations I was making to the pattern. After making several fit adjustments I got to work on the final dress.
Here is the dress. I’m pretty pleased with the result and can’t wait to wear it in London this summer.
For the record, I learned to sew relatively late in life (not until I was in my 30s). My mother is an amazing seamstress who had attempted to teach me to sew many times throughout my teens and 20s but I was easily frustrated and generally gave up halfway through sewing a garment. The desire to learn to sew stuck with me, however, and I got my start by taking a few classes at Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul. I made a skirt in the first class I took there and was immediately hooked. I don’t think I had the patience to stick with learning a new craft until I got older, so if you think you’re too old to learn to sew, you’re not. I highly recommend taking a class, no matter your age.
You can see my To Catch a Thief-inspired dress on display at the Heights Theater on April 20.
1 Haugland, H. Kristina. Grace Kelly Style. London, V & A Publishing, 2010.
Edited by Olga Tchepikova-Treon