Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: Haute Holidays at Hillwood

This year's wondrous display features Christmas trees decorated in homage to Christian Dior's dresses designed for Princess Grace of Monaco.

Haute Holidays: Hillwood -- Photo: Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum _ Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik
Haute Holidays: Hillwood — Photo: Erik Kvalsvik/Hillwood

December is a fine time to visit Hillwood, especially because it’s all aglow with holiday decor. Lynn Rossotti, the organization’s director of external affairs, seconded the notion a few years ago to Metro Weekly.

“The mansion always has these beautiful glittering trees, [and] the gardens are approaching their winter stages,” she said. “It’s always kind of a peaceful, nice holiday experience. Most people just don’t expect this little oasis — it’s such a surprise right in Washington, D.C. A lot of people love to come between Christmas and New Year’s. They still have their friends in town or they are still off of work. It’s really a fun thing to do with other people.”

Certainly this year’s Haute Holidays display sounds as intriguing and inspired as ever.

Each Christmas tree on display has been decorated in homage to Christian Dior and the Dior dresses currently on display nearby as part of a special exhibition on the late style icon Princess Grace of Monaco.

The first tree visitors encounter in the entry hall was inspired by two iconic dresses worn by the erstwhile Hollywood star Grace Kelly, a 1971 ivory silk georgette number embroidered with multicolored pearls and sequins in a floral design, and a 1966 red silk crepe cocktail dress capped with a bow on the shoulder.

As such, the tree abounds with dark pink and red flowers along with diamond and red bows, set off by red ball ornaments added for holiday cheer.

Haute Holidays: Hillwood -- Photo: Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum _ Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik
Haute Holidays: Hillwood — Photo: Erik Kvalsvik/Hillwood

A two-tone polka dot tulle evening dress that Princess Grace wore in 1970 served as inspiration for a tree in the French drawing room festooned with light and dark pink orbs, diamond ornaments, and topped with a large pink bow from the dress itself.

Also from 1970 is a sky blue evening dress and tunic accented with fringe, which has given rise to an elegant tree adorned with silver and blue fringe and enhanced with vintage glass balls in the pavilion.

A stunning 83 Dior dresses are on display in the ongoing exhibit Grace of Monaco: Princess in Dior. Focused on the legendary actress who became a legitimate princess, the show “offers insights into the life of the icon, whose image was created in response to Hollywood’s wish for glamour and the desire for elegance in her stately duties.”

Kelly is described as the longtime muse of Marc Bohan, the designer who headed up Christian Dior after the brand’s namesake died, and Bohan and Kelly’s partnership and friendship is also explored. Also on view are other fashion pieces as well as mementos and photos from the late princess’s private collection, on loan from the Palace of Monaco — and all of it seen for the first time in North America through this exhibition, which originated at France’s Musée Dior.

Haute Holidays: Hillwood -- Photo: Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum _ Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik
Haute Holidays: Hillwood — Photo: Erik Kvalsvik/Hillwood

Later in the month, Hillwood’s director of horticulture Jessica Bonilla will lead a Gardener’s Focus Tour: Bones of the Winter Garden, a free 30-minute trek with an eye on the estate’s evergreens and deciduous woody plants. You’ll need to plan ahead, however, as only 20 tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis when the museum opens for that particular day’s tour (12/13, 12/16, 12/20, 12/23).

No visit to Hillwood is complete, especially during the holidays, without a visit to its large and top-notch gift shop. A particularly great gift idea this year for your finer things-appreciating aunt or cousin — or even yourself — is a new coffee table book focused on Post’s passion as manifested by her elegant homes and extraordinary collections.

Written by Hillwood’s curatorial team and featuring new photography by Erik Kvalsvik and John Dean, The Houses and Collections of Marjorie Merriweather Post: The Joy of It was published in October by Rizzoli Electa, in partnership with Hillwood. The 288-page hardcover edition retails for $60. A softcover edition retails for $30.

Haute Holidays and Grace of Monaco: Princess in Dior are on display through Jan. 8, 2023.

The Hillwood Estate and Museum is at 4155 Linnean Ave. NW. There is a suggested donation of $15 per person for weekday visits and $18 on the weekend.

Visit or call 202-686-5807.

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