What’s it like to be a style icon? Say, Grace Kelly? Who could resist trying it for one night at London’s Connaught hotel in Mayfair…
I’m not sure I’m a style icon. In fact, let me rephrase that. I’m definitely not a style icon. My look is rather more eclectic – a mix of High Street, modern-dressed-up-as-vintage and a few odd things that have been lurking in my wardrobe for years. But after immersing myself in Grace Kelly style in the fashion exhibition in London’s V&A, I wanted to indulge my stylish fantasies.
The Connaught hotel in Mayfair was Grace Kelly’s favourite hotel in London and the actress-turned-princess visited frequently with her family from the ‘50s through to the ‘70s. To celebrate the relationship and coincide with the V&A exhibition, the Connaught was offering a ‘Grace Kelly package’ of pampering and take-home goodies so that anyone – even a ‘blow-in’ from the west of Ireland – could be a celebrity for a night.
Because there are some places you can escape to and shut out the world. Where time stands still, frozen in a bygone era of elegance and grandeur. Where the luxury is understated, though all the more luxurious for it, and where five-start service and attention to detail surround you.
The Connaught in Mayfair is one of those places, home of old world glamour – grand interiors and a majestic sweeping staircase, leather armchairs in plush bars, discreet silver service in the conservatory dining room and butlers on call. It does have some modern touches to place it firmly in the 21st century of course, and the new wing has a Japanese garden – fancy!
Back in my room, I enjoy some of the treats of the Grace Kelly package, laid on by the hotel. There are DVD films to watch, including some of the actresses classics – Rear Window with James Stewart and The Country Girl with Bing Crosby, for which she won an Oscar. And a book to browse through, produced in association with the exhibition, a fascinating insight into her life in Hollywood, then Monaco. I curl up to sleep afterwards, like a princess in my enormous bed with cotton-wool soft bedding and downy pillows.
It’s 7am and I can’t open the blinds in my suite. So I do what any woman would do in a crisis. I phone for the butler. He arrives within minutes – could it even have been seconds? I am very apologetic but the butler brushes it off – he gets called in to deal with all sorts of requests he explains cheerfully, from packing and unpacking for guests to running their baths. He’s also happy to give advice – on everything under the sun by the sounds of what he gets asked on a daily basis – from the expected ‘Where’s good to eat’ to the rather more surprising ‘What handbag do you think I should buy’.
So where would he send us Grace Kelly fans to hang out in London? (The handbag is easy of course – it has to be the Kelly bag.) He considers the question for a moment, then proclaims ‘the King’s Road’ triumphantly. The perfect place, the right era and individual enough with enough quirky boutiques and independent bars and eateries for cater for a whole host of glamorous fashionistas.
Blinds sorted, he’s off to answer the call of another guest – typing the belt of their dressing gown perhaps? – and it’s time for me to dress for breakfast. Served in the sedately stylishly front conservatory, I’m attended to by discreet waiters who serve my cooked breakfast on a huge monogrammed plate. There’s nothing as crass as a buffet dripping beans over the tablecloth here.
I stop to flick through some glossy magazines in the foyer, thinking as I turn the pages of Grace doing the same thing in this very space all those years ago. Then, with a flick of my hair and a flounce of my handbag, I’m back on the street and on my way into work. Back to being just me again, but with the spring in my step that comes from hanging out in posh Mayfair and the thrill of ‘being Grace’ for a night.