Theirs was a love story that meshed the cinematic glamour of Hollywood with the high couture of Paris.
Actor Gregory Peck first met his future wife, Véronique, during an interview for France-Soir, the French newspaper she worked for in Paris. Peck was in Italy at the time, filming “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn. He was smitten with the journalist and fashionista, and upon his return to Paris, called her at work and invited her to lunch. They were together for almost five decades, an unheard of stretch of time by Hollywood standards.
“Véronique was the it girl of journalism, and she was part of the very literary and chic circle,” says Cecilia Peck Voll, the couple’s daughter. “She was already being dressed by couturiers when she covered events for her paper.”
Véronique moved to Los Angeles in 1955 and became one of the most influential women in Hollywood, due to her innate sense of style and warm relationships with designers, who saw her as an inspiration.
“She was, in her time, an original fashion influencer and a muse to these designers,” Voll says. “They created with her in mind and wanted her in their dresses.”
Denver Art Museum’s latest exhibit, “Paris to Hollywood: The Fashion and Influence of Véronique and Gregory Peck,” features more than 100 of Véronique’s ensembles from the ’50s through the ’90s, and includes 17 couturiers and designers from around the world, such as Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Hubert de Givenchy and André Courrège. Fashion sketches, photos, film clips, family snapshots, receipts and letters also will be on display.
“She had a very great eye to make the right choice,” says exhibit curator Florence Müller, who’s also DAM’s Avenir Foundation curator of Textile Art and Fashion. “She had great relationships with couture houses. She was beautiful and had a beautiful silhouette. The Pecks were invited to many events, not only in Hollywood, but also they were in France with several presidents. They were involved with lots of things, but also the art world and political world. She was seen as an ambassador.”
The exhibit is a realization of Müller’s lifelong love affair with Hollywood movies. The French curator, who relocated to Denver from Paris in 2015, was raised on a steady diet of classic American films.
“It’s part of our culture,” she says. “Not many Americans know this. Half of the movies I saw as a teenager and after were American movies.”
So imagine what it might feel like to arrive at Voll’s L.A. home to view Véronique’s collection of couture.
“You go to the house of the daughter of a great star, Gregory Peck, and it’s very moving,” Müller says. “When you go in a storage of the wardrobe of a lady, you have the feeling of touching her. Dresses are so personal. It’s connection. Very sensitive, very emotional.”
Fashion designers loved Véronique, as she was slim enough to wear the original samples from fashion shows — the garments models wore on the runway. It was also the way she viewed the clothing.
“She sees fashion and couture not as just a way to be dressed in a nice way,” Müller says. “She sees it as a form of art. She wants to help artists by wearing their creation in a beautiful way. She’s a supporter of the art of fashion.”
The curator’s hope for the exhibit is two-fold: to help people build a culture of fashion by showing an evolution of ensembles through the decades. She also wants visitors to realize high fashion, such as the often outrageous outfits that can be seen during New York Fashion Week or Paris Fashion Week, are points of entry for those who simply love clothing.
“I hope people feel you can be inspired by designers, its trends, its seasons, but you have to build your own identity,” she says. “When you look at the exhibit, you see Véronique is exploring all the trends, all the designers, and then she makes it her own personal expression. Today when we see fashion shows, they’re very extravagant. Two-thirds of the show are impossible to wear unless you’re Rihanna. But there’s always the message that there are new ideas that can become everyday life fashion.”
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