There have always been little girls who dream of growing up to be princesses, and if the success of Disney’s Frozen is any indication, princesses are far from passé these days. When it comes to what this dream might look like, the film, book, and toy industries have long provided plenty of fodder for the imaginative and hopeful young girl. Dressing the part has always been a crucial piece of being (or pretending to be) a princess. Taking a walk through any toy store will give you ample proof that little girls are sold on the idea that they can don the gowns and crowns of their favorite Disney heroines and pretend at royalty, hoping it will come true with a little bit of luck. Sure, there aren’t actually that many princes out there looking for their wives-to-be, but there are a few real-life examples of this ascension to royalty that help fuel the fantasies.

Kate Middelton, while not called “Princess,” is now the Duchess of Cambridge, thanks to her marriage to Prince William. Unlike William’s mother, Princess Diana, Kate didn’t grow up in an aristocratic family with titles of their own. While not exactly a Cinderella story—Kate’s parents own a party supply company worth £30 million—Kate has renewed what could be called a royal obsession for a new generation of want-to-be princesses. Much like the late Princess Diana, Kate brings a sense of personal, and sometimes borrowed, style to her title.  Indeed, at times it seems she can’t quite escape the fashion comparisons.

What Would Grace Do 200But Kate and Diana were not the first stylish royals and fashion trendsetters to capture the world’s admiration. Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, defined the role of “fashionista princess” five years before Diana was born when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956. Kelly’s acting career made her a household name before she got her royal title but it was how she held herself—and dressed herself—that really set her apart from her Hollywood counterparts. In her new book, What Would Grace Do? (out in paper from Gotham on April 1), Gina McKinnon gives us a timely portrait of the “Princess of Hollywood,” that not only includes descriptions of Grace’s major film roles, rich biographic tidbits like whom she dated before she became a princess (it’s a long list of names we recognize!), but also focuses on Grace’s timeless style and sophistication.

McKinnon defines Princess Grace’s signature looks as well as giving us insight into how she handled a variety of life’s trials and tribulations—from what to wear to a party to how to deal with marital infidelity. The book offers lessons from Grace’s perspective but does not ignore the difficulties and controversies she faced as a real-life princess in the public eye. If you are looking for inspiration on how to hold your head high in all situations, this book offers some practical advice and words of wisdom from the late Princess, who died in a car crash in 1982 at the age of 52.

One of the most enduring legacies of Princess Grace’s style is the Kelly bag, renamed after she made the Hermes bag famous by carrying it everywhere. Kelly became pregnant within a week of her marriage to Rainier and her Hermes bag was often used to shield her “bump” from the prying eyes of the press. Her style can be defined as classic and maybe a bit preppy. Perhaps if she were less royal and more regular, she would have liked to shop at J. Crew and Ann Taylor.

Like her contemporary counterpart Kate Middleton is likely to do, Princess Grace’s style and poise influenced generations of women and she is still considered a major fashion icon. A quick search on the Internet provides many top lists that include Kate, Diana, and Grace, including this one that includes all three on the list of the top 15 style icons of all time.

 What Would Grace Do? is timely because our fascination with Princess Grace’s life and marriage is about to receive the royal Hollywood treatment in the new biopic, Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman. The film has had post-production issues and the release date was pushed back from March to possibly May. Just as in McKinnon’s book, much to Monaco’s royal family’s displeasure, audiences are in for the juicy and controversial details of Kelly’s years as a royal, with a focus on the tension in Kelly’s marriage and her regrets about giving up her acting career for her role as Princess. Based on the trailer, director Oliver Dahan’s Princess Grace will not be getting the Disney treatment, instead offering audiences more of a dose of harsh reality than fairytale. While young girls won’t necessarily be watching, the lesson is an important one to pass on: being a princess is not all pretty dresses and Prince Charming.

Image Credits:

Cover image: and

Kate and Diana:

Grace Kelly headshot:

Grace Kelly and Kelly bag: