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The “Sex and the City” gang most recently escaped from New York and scooted to Abu Dhabi for a decadent (albeit short) getaway. If the fabulous foursome were ready to embark on another adventure this winter, they might want to consider sojourning to Grand Rapids, Michigan and catch two major museum exhibitions that pay homage to a pair of very classy and influential ladies: the late Princess Diana and former First Lady Betty Ford.
“Diana: A Celebration,” freshly opened at the Grand Rapids Art Museum this week, showcases the spirit and humanitarian work of one of the 20th century's most remarkable women, Diana, Princess of Wales. More than 150 objects—ranging from her stunning royal wedding gown and tiara to family heirlooms, personal mementos, paintings and rare home movies and photos—are presented throughout nine galleries. Charting the chronology of the Princess of Wales’ short yet glamorous life, the exhibition walks visitors through Diana's childhood, engagement to Prince Charles, their fairytale royal wedding, their children, and her accomplishments before her abrupt passing in 1997.
A display at the Betty Ford exhibit
On the other side of town, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is hosting “Betty Ford: An Extraordinary Life,” an intimate look at the outspoken, free-spirited former First Lady, Betty Ford. Through informative walltext and dozens of artifacts from her personal collection, the exhibition tells an amazing story of Elizabeth Ann Bloomer Ford—from her Grand Rapids upbringing to a career in fashion and dance, to a congressman's wife and then First Lady, to her charitable work with breast cancer awareness, and eventually overcoming for herself and helping others defeat chemical dependency.
Both installations, of course, highlight remarkable collections of original dresses and gowns worn by the ladies. The 28 designer frocks on display in “Diana: A Celebration” reveal inevitable changes in the Princess’s style and taste—she favored such classic British couturiers as Victor Edelstein, Murray Arbeid, and Belville Sassoon in the 1980s, and eventually graduating to Versace, Valentino, and Chanel by the 1990s. Nearly 40 silky dresses and colorful suits that Betty Ford donned to White House functions, press conferences, and other important events are also centerpieces of her show. Accompanied by larger-than-life images of Ford in the outfits, visitors get close up views of custom-made garments by Luis Estevez, Frankie Welch, and Albert Capraro, undoubtedly Ford’s favorite designer. — Chai Lee
Vital info:“Diana: A Celebration” at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (101 Monroe Center) will be on view until February 16, 2011. “Betty Ford: An Extraordinary Life” at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum (303 Pearl Street NW) will run until February 27, 2011.