Most people who like fashion and galleries, are probably aware of the current exhibition at London’s V&A; Hollywood Costume. Billed as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity to see over 100 of the most iconic costumes in the history of film-making’, my Mother and I arrived with pretty high expectations. And by heck, it certainly didn’t disappoint, this exhibition is nothing short of epic. We arrived in Kensington, had a long lazy coffee and mooched over to the V&A. My goodness it was busy, my lovely Mama is a member of the V&A which is amazing value and gets you into the exhibitions free and ahead of the queues, phew! It was bustling! I knew the exhibition had three main rooms but I had no idea how huge this show was. All three rooms were grand in size and both the curation and the styling was beyond superb. Every costume was given room to breathe, they were not behind glass which was great to see, but the security was understandably hot, no photos and no touching! The lighting was perfection, pretty dark with just the outfits given the spotlights. The information on each movie, character, designer, director and actor was really thorough and the time it took to go through the whole exhibition made us feel, at the end, as if we had been on a magical movie journey. We went into the V&A in crisp autumn daylight, and came out into the dark of the evening. Wow. We were totally absorbed and were completely unaware of time, exactly like that wonderful feeling you get after being in the movie theatre, you come back outside to real life, having just spent time in another world, gorgeous.
The amount, the variety and the provenance of all the costumes on display was literally awesome. Seeing a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, or Vivien Leigh on it’s own would be a great delight, but this exhibition houses pretty much every iconic outfit you could think of. From the beginning of movie history, up to the most recent Hollywood blockbuster, this has everything. It’s great for girls, guys, kids and older people, every single person who visits will undoubtedly see a costume that they have always loved.
One of the main draws of this show was the legendary costume from The Wizard of OZ, most especially the ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in the film. This was the first time the shoes had ever been on display outside of the USA. Exhibition curator Deborah Nadoolman took 5 years to secure the loan of the shoes from the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington. Even then, they were only loaned for a very limited time, so that they could be back in their original home in time for Thanksgiving. The Wizard of Oz is shown every year in the USA as a Thanksgiving tradition. My Mother and I saw the shoes on their last day at the V&A, yay! At the very end of the gigantic exhibition, there they were, in a small glass case all on their own. Oh my, how we gazed upon them. Not as bright and vivid as they appear in the film, the deep red shoes made my heart skip a beat, so much history and value right there in a little pair of beaten up shoes. The shoes in the movie were originally going to be silver, but got changed to red at the last moment so they would be a bolder contrast to the yellow brick road. The ones we saw have since been replaced with replica shoes-made by the same company who made the originals-for the remainder of the exhibition.
With so very many amazing costumes on display and without wanting to spoil the fun for those who are yet to visit, it’s hard to choose which ones delighted me the most, but here is my pick of the exhibition.
Below is the green velvet dress that Vivian Leigh wore in ‘Gone with the Wind’, 1939.
Tippi Hedren’s suit from Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’, 1963.
My absolute favourite dress in the show, Joan Crawford’s rich red beaded gown from ‘The Bride Wore Red’, 1937.
I was pretty much mostly loving the 1930’s looks, both the original and this silk green modern one from ‘Atonement’, 2007, worn by Kiera Knightly.
Similar to thr red Joan Crawford gown, also designed by Hollywood costumier Adrian, this silver caped and beaded 1930’s dress was another one I fell in love with. From the movie, ‘My Man Godfrey’, 1936, worn by Carole Lombard.
And of course, the classic, simple, and most iconic movie outfit worn by Judy Garland in ‘The Wizard of Oz’, 1939.
Go see this exhibition, it is gob smackingly beautiful, dreamy, nostalgic, stunning, exciting, glamorous and wonderful. It is on until 27th January 2013.
For more information visit www.vam.ac.uk/hollywoodcostume