‘Hollywood Costume‘ takes over three galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum from this Saturday in a ground-breaking exhibition which celebrates the central role of costume in creating the characters that we see on the big screen.
Sponsored by Harry Winston Inc and curated by a team which includes Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis (whose costume credits include Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Blues Brothers, Thriller and Animal House) and celebrated cultural historian Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, ‘Hollywood Costume’ seeks to educate visitors about the importance of costume as an essential tool of cinematic story telling.
The exhibition is split into three sections that look at different aspects of the craft:
- Act One: Deconstruction – in this room the visitor is introduced to the role of the costume designer in movies. Designs, sketches, photographs and scripts feature in this part of the exhibition, piecing together the processes that help the designer arrive at the final ‘look’ for a particular character. Amongst the costumes on show in this first section are Indie’s famous outfit from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the ‘urban cowboy’ costumes from Brokeback Mountain, the outlandish suits and dresses worn in Addams Family Values, and a huge Elizabethan tableau with costumes worn by Cate Blanchett and Bette Davis in their respective Queen Elizabeth I roles at the centre.
- Act Two: Dialogue – this section uses archival film footage and specially commissioned one-to-one interviews recreated with large video screens and projection tables which show how the personalities of the man behind the camera and the actors in front of it can influence the costume designer’s decisions. The ‘Art of Becoming’ features case-studies with Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep, both celebrated method actors, where they discuss the importance of costume in creating their characters (when playing The Iron Lady, for example, Streep insisted that her handbag should contain exactly the same items that would be found in one of Thatcher’s). Costumes on display in this area include Darth Vader’s iconic outfit from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, characters from Avatar and one of Tippi Hendren’s outfits posed in a manic tableau from 1963′s The Birds.
- Act Three: Finale – throwing any pretense of education out of the window, this final room simply celebrates the best of Hollywood heroes, heroines and femme fatales. Several superheroes get in on the act (look *up* for Batman and Superman) as does Marilyn with her ivory cocktail dress from the Seven Year Itch, Robert Downey Junior’s frilly Sherlock ensemble, Depp’s swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow costume and Harry Potter’s school uniform. Alongside these iconic costumes are those worn by Marlene Dietrich, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Will Smith and many others. The final treat, as you walk around to the end of the displays, comes in the form of Judy Garland’s simple gingham dress from The Wizard Of Oz right alongside her troublesome ruby slippers…
A special announcement was made at the press launch this morning – the British Film Institute (BFI) have today donated their entire costume collection, numbering some 700 pieces, to the Victoria & Albert Museum. While this indicates that the BFI’s financial troubles are continuing, at least these items are now coming under the stewardship of some of the world’s best conservators.
‘Hollywood Costume’ continues through until January 2013 with tickets priced from £15.40 per person. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of special talks, panels, workshops and family days, most of which are free of charge – look at the timetable here if you’d like to arrange a visit to coincide with one of these events.
For the full album of photographs from this morning please click on this link to Google+. Unfortunately due to issues with copyright some of the more well-known costumes are absent from this album…