Updated: Aug 1, 2021
Fashions by Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin and Hubert de Givenchy are on display at the Denver Art Museum through July 18.
One of Hollywood's most enduring and stylish marriages, as seen through the lens of fashion, has earned the spotlight in an exhibition currently on view at the Denver Art Museum.
Paris to Hollywood: The Fashion and Influence of Véronique and Gregory Peck is on exhibition through July 18, 2021 and features roughly 100 ensembles from 17 designers around the world, names well-known to fashion and film alike: Yves Saint Laurent, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin and Hubert de Givenchy, among them. In addition to dresses, gowns and pantsuits from Véronique Peck’s wardrobe, one of Gregory Peck’s tuxedos is on display, as well as design sketches, film clips and never-before-seen family photographs, thanks to the participation of the Pecks’ daughter, filmmaker Cecilia Peck Voll.
“Paris to Hollywood will present our visitors with an exclusive look behind the scenes of one of the most famed couples of the mid-to-late 20th century,” said Christoph Heinrich, the Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the Denver Art Museum. “We are honored to present such a monumental selection of Hollywood history through this exhibition, while showcasing the art of fashion and all that goes into the creation of these marvelous and intricate ensembles.”
In 1952, Véronique Passani was a 20-year-old journalist based in Paris, working for the newspaper France Soir, when she met Gregory Peck, already one of Hollywood’s most popular actors for roles that included 1945’s Spellbound, 1946’s Duel in the Sun, and 1947’s Gentlemen’s Agreement. Peck stopped over in Paris on his way to Italy to shoot 1953’s Roman Holiday, and legend has it that he was depressed due to his failing marriage to his first wife, Finnish-born Greta Kukkonen. Passani interviewed the Hollywood star for France Soir. “I thought he was an extraordinary man,” Véronique told the Los Angeles Times in 1967 when the newspaper named her its Woman of the Year. “I was simply happy to have met him; that was all.”
But upon his return to Paris six months later, Peck tracked her down at France Soir and asked her to lunch. The journalist later confessed that she accepted his invitation at the expense of missing a lunch given by Jean-Paul Sartre and attended by Albert Schweitzer, who had won the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize. Peck’s now-famous reply: “You made the right choice, kiddo!” Passani moved to the U.S. in 1955, and the couple was married on New Year’s Eve that same year, the day following Peck’s divorce from Kukkonen.
Gregory and Véronique Peck soon became one of Hollywood’s most popular couples, with Véronique known equally for her style and her commitment to philanthropy—together they raised funds for the American Cancer Society, the Los Angeles Public Library, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, among other causes—while their high-wattage friends included Frank Sinatra, Sidney Poitier and Lauren Bacall. “I was always welcomed with open arms into the tightly knit Peck family,” Bacall, who starred with the actor in 1957’s Designing Woman, wrote in 2005’s By Myself and Then Some. “Véronique made even locations feel like home. Though Greg was 10 years my senior, we seemed, and we were, totally in tune with one another. We always had fun working together.”
The French-born Véronique exuded a natural style in both her personal life and public appearances, a story told through the fashion exhibited in Paris to Hollywood. She seemed to evolve with fashion through the decades, as seen in the structured haute-couture dresses by Pierre Cardin and Hubert de Givenchy in the 1950s, the adventurous 1960s vibe in pieces by Emilio Pucci and André Courrèges (a designer that Véronique reportedly introduced to the U.S. during that decade), and the relaxed romanticism of Yves Saint Laurent’s famed “Russian Collection” for Fall/Winter 1976.
“Véronique was, and remains, an exemplary figure of fashion with an emblematic wardrobe,” said exhibition curator Florence Müller. “Fashion is a big component of our contemporary culture and how we see the world. Paris to Hollywood is a testament to the history of fashion and to Véronique’s ability to stay on the pulse of fashion and new trends.”
“When my parents entered a room, you couldn’t take your eyes off them,” Cecilia Peck Voll said in a statement. “They made style look effortless. I think their secret was that they were having fun. They were in love, and you could feel it. They inspired each other and made each other laugh. His eyes were always on her. Their style was a reflection of their love.”
At the conclusion of the exhibition in July, Peck Voll is donating key pieces to the museum’s permanent collection. “We are incredibly grateful to Cecilia Peck Voll for graciously gifting 20 invaluable garments from the exhibition to DAM’s permanent collection following the show’s closure … and for sharing her collection with the world for the first time at our museum,” Heinrich added.
“They were in love, and you could feel it. They inspired each other and made each other laugh. His eyes were always on her. Their style was a reflection of their love.” — Cecilia Peck Voll
If you’re not able to get to Denver, the museum’s site includes several elements to create a virtual experience, from a look at pieces seen in the various sections and vignettes in the exhibition to a “Gallery Game” that can be played on a smartphone. The exhibition’s catalog is also available for purchase online.
“Thanks to Christoph Heinrich and the Denver Art Museum, especially the extraordinary eye of Florence Müller, I am sharing my mother Veronique’s haute couture with the public for the first time,” Peck Voll added. “It’s been a thrilling journey of discovery for all of us."