Friday, 20 January 2012

"Lights, Camera, Action" - Hollywood Costume at the V&A

"Fashion, you design for people; costume you design characters." (Jeffrey Kurland)

Image © MGM Archives

A new exhibition at the V&A, entitled 'Hollywood Costume', brings together over 100 of the most iconic costumes seen on the big screen from over a century of film-making - while also exploring the central role costume design plays in bringing cinematic characters to life. 

Expect to see the black Givenchy dress Audrey Hepburn wore as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's; Judy Garland's homage to gingham in The Wizard of Oz; Michelle Pfeiffer's Batman Returns catsuit (meoooow); Vivien Leigh’s green velvet curtain gown as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind; Johnny Depp's "I got a jar of dirt, I got a jar of dirt, and guess what’s inside it!" garb as Jack Sparrow and Darth Vader's "Use the force!" cape and helmet.  OK, I'll stop with the movie quotes now. 

Outfits worn by Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, Kate Winslet in Titanic and Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men are also on show, along with other characters including Jessica Rabbit, and Indiana Jones. Some of the pieces took 5 years to obtain, with most never having left the film studios and all never having been on display to the public before. The collection is also sponsored by Jewellers Harry Winston, so you know it’s going to be a good one.

Also on display are film clips and specially commissioned interviews with Hollywood's costumes designers, directors and actors, including Meryl Streep - whose blue suit from The Iron Lady, designed by Consolata Boyle, appears in the exhibition.
Taking us on a journey through the Golden Age of Hollywood from 1912 through to the present day, the exhibition includes three sections beginning with Act 1, Deconstruction - which studies a costume designer's work close-up, explaining the process of creating a character from script to screen; Act 2, Dialogue, looks at how costume designers play a vital role within the creative team behind a movie; Act 3, Finale, brings to life Hollywood's most popular screen icons through make-up, fashion, accessories and styling.

Curated by Deborah Landis, whose costume design credits include The Blues Brothers, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Coming to America, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Trading Places; the exhibition celebrates costume designers as not just storytellers, but historians, anthropologists and 
social commentators. As Landis says, "Costumes ignite worldwide fashion trends". 

Having attend today's press launch, I strongly advise you to see this beautiful and glamour-filled exhibition. I can now die happy having seen Marlene Dietrich's "million grains of golden caviar" dress from the film Angel up close. Designed by Travis Banton, it cost $8000 to produce in 1937 and was too expensive for Paramount executives to allow Dietrich to add to her personal collection, as was her usual custom. Late tastemaker and fashion editor Diana Vreeland once described the dress as "breathtaking". I'm with Diana. Simply stunning. 

Dress by Travis Banton, with beaded pattern by Adele Balkan
*Le Sigh*......

Hollywood Costume at the V&A runs from 20 October 2012 – 27 January 2013. To book tickets head HERE.


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