A Style Lesson from Princess Grace: How to Add Polish to a Casual Look

Today, Instagram and TikTok are teeming with stylists delivering tips on how to upgrade an everyday look. But Princess Grace was the original fashion influencer. Her casual yet classic style spawned generations of imitators—and her signature accessories, such as ballet flats, oversized sunglasses, and a structured top-handle bag, are as chic today as they were when she wore them. 

So, what casual style cues can we take from the original fashion influencer? We asked Susan Swimmer, a former fashion magazine editor who has written about fashion history, for easy ways to infuse Princess Grace’s relaxed yet polished style into a modern wardrobe. “Princess Grace was the original ambassador for American sportswear,” says Swimmer. “She may have lived in Europe after her marriage, but her inherent style was influenced by her American upbringing in Philadelphia. And while fussier French fashion was very influential at the time, Princess Grace was unafraid to add classic and understated elements to her outfits—like a cardigan, pearls, flats, or a button-down shirt.” 

Populating your closet with classic pieces is not the only takeaway from studying Princess Grace’s style, says Swimmer, who points to these additional simple strategies to upgrade an outfit:

Opt for classic colors

“Clothes in more understated hues like white, black, navy, gray, camel—even a dark green or deep red—are the epitome of luxury,” says Swimmer, “and they add refinement to casual pieces.” Princess Grace was also a fan of monochromatic dressing, says Swimmer, which is “a good trick to instantly elevate a look.”

Tie on a scarf

While Princess Grace’s style was decidedly American, she did enthusiastically adopt one French staple: the scarf. “Princess Grace wore a scarf with everything—on her head, around her neck or shoulders—and it added elegance, even when she was wearing a very casual vacation look,” says Swimmer. In colder months, opt for cozy cashmere or a silk and cashmere blend scarf. Our new Grace de Monaco Monogram Collection scarves come in modern neutral colors like a taupe-gray or lavender that go with nearly everything. 

Add a dash of dressiness

Dressing casually doesn’t mean you can’t still wear high-quality fabrics, carry an investment designer bag (i.e. Princess Grace’s own namesake Hermés Kelly bag)—or slip into a swishy skirt. “Princess Grace taught us the importance of having a great coat. She might wear skinny capri pants and ballet flats, but she’d top them with a ¾ length car coat in the finest cashmere, which takes the whole look up a notch,” says Swimmer. Similarly, she might pair a casual button-down shirt and flats with a full, midi-length skirt. “You can absolutely wear your skirts for a casual look, but instead of wearing them with sneakers, opt for a ballet flat or pointy-toe skimmer.  To emulate Princess Grace, the goal is simple elegance—no sneakers, leggings, or other athleisure items.” 

Don’t forget hair and makeup

While you don’t need a blowout or a full face of makeup before you head out, take a page from Princess Grace’s style playbook and see how pulled together you’ll look—and feel—with a swipe of lipstick, a neat, simple updo (e.g. a ponytail, a braid, or a knot at the nape), and a pair of chic sunglasses.

Go off script (a little)

Adding a trendy piece to a casual look can give it a more current and playful feel, says Swimmer. She suggests pairing a classic piece like a pencil skirt with a logo or graphic t-shirt, a crisp button-down with barrel leg jeans, or a feminine blouse with cargo pants. She also suggests choosing a timeless piece in a non-classic color or shape—such as a cobalt blue cardigan, an oversized blazer, or a slightly cropped or shrunken cashmere sweater. And finally, Swimmer says being a little more daring with accessories can add a touch of edginess to an otherwise classic outfit. “Put on a strand of pearls, but pair it with a series of gold-linked chains or chunky colorful beads. And rather than wearing one simple gold bangle, slide on six.”