The V&A Proudly Presents… Hollywood Costume
Taking five years to create and gathering over 130 iconic movie costumes from film studios, actors and private collectors – Hollywood Costume is perhaps the V&A’s most ambitious and decorative exhibition yet. Only here will you find Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp, Darth Vader, Holly Golightly, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Han Solo, Scarlett O’Hara, James Bond, The Bride from Kill Bill and Indiana Jones together under one roof.
Hollywood Costume explores the central role of costume design, of which Senior Guest Curator – Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis – explains is very different from fashion design. “Costumes are not designed for a season or trend but rather a moment, under certain lighting conditions and environments, reflecting the inner nature of the characters we see on screen.” The first designer for Indiana Jones, Landis described the adventure behind the research, and compiling all the costumes, was worthy of an Indie film itself.
Guest curator Professor Sir Christopher Frayling was proud to announce at the press launch that seven hundred film costumes, assembled by the British Film Institute from 1980, have been transferred to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Sir Frayling stated that the BFI’s generous donation meant the V&A was now the home of “the national collection of film costume”.
In short, this is an unmissable exhibition that will showcase why Hollywood is the leading film industry in the world. The attention to detail to some of the garments are breathtaking as they are spectacular. The video heads, portraying the actors in character, add a dynamic touch to the mannequins bringing all film fantasies to life. For movie and art lovers everywhere, if there is a place to go this winter – it’s right in the heart of South Kensington.
The exhibition is split between three act.
~ ACT I ~
Deconstruction: The role of the costume designer is introduced here and are shown to take their directions from the screenplay where the story and the life of the characters effectively start. Much of the focus relies on how the writers describe their characters and must be created before a single roll of film is used. You’ll see how important the role of a costume designer is and how a successful designer makes the actors effortlessly blend in with the environment they walk in. Below are some of the highlights.
Charlie Chaplin’s costume for his iconic character - the Tramp – is the exhibition’s oldest piece on display.
Kim Novak’s dress as Judy Barton in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo.
Vivien Leigh’s costume for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. The dress was designed by Walter Plunkett and has a moss green velvet overskirt in the front which opens to reveal an underskirt, with a semi-cape on the left shoulder and a drapery cord belt.
Costume design isn’t just about the character but how they fit in the environment they’re set in. In Matt Damon’s case as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum – he is walking among the commuters at Waterloo Station below. His soft, grey tone allows him to blend in with the crowd.
If he wore a slightly more snazzy piece, then he would look totally out of place as projected below. Smiling back at Damon is optional though highly recommended.
The dynamic duo. Or Are they? Wanting to create the stark personality differences between Edward Norton’s character and Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden. One being boring, beige and soft while the other extreme, loud and unapologetic.
The real question is…. when can we dress like Tyler Durden so we can join a Fight Club of our own. The porno vest is highly desirable. Sort of.
The ensemble cast from Oceans 11. Just the costumes that is. They’re not really there. But Matt Damon is. Smiling.
Film notes from the producers, directors and costume designers provide their insight on how characters are born and how they’re so well loved the world over. George Lucas described Indiana Jones’s personality below for Raiders of the Lost Ark to which designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis took inspiration from and brought Indie to life.
An example of a boot chosen for Raiders of the Lost Ark projected on a screen.
And the final result?
Indiana Jones. The greatest movie Archaeologist of all time. Harrison Ford wasn’t the first choice for this role but after four outings, its unimaginable to think anyone could play this role. Famous for his fedora hat, leather jacket and bullwhip.
Period drama films are the most difficult to develop as a great deal of research is required to ensure the costumes match the period the film is set in. No worries here for Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola de Lesseps and Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare in John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love – they fit right in.
Dame Judi Dench’s costume as Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love.
~ ACT II ~
Dialogue: The designer takes the ideas inspired by the screenplay and discusses them in dialogue between the actors, directors and producers. Here we see how a collaborative effort is made on everything a character wears from large garments like dresses and jackets to smaller items such as shoes and accessories. Below are some highlights from the second room where the colaborative exchange is expressed through video footage.
Tippi Hendren is on the set design table for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Bird’s. She’s talking to legendary costume designer….
Edith Head who of course styled many of Hitchcock’s heroines such as Grace Kelly as well as the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor.
The dialogue room is also about how the actors interact with the characters using their costumes as a valuable tool. Andy Serkis here describes his experience using a motion capture costume while acting as Caesar, the super intelligent chimp, in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
The exhibition also brings a wonderful insight into how the actors felt while working with such amazing costumes. Academy Award winning actors Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep were interviewed especially for the exhibition to discuss the importance of developing costumes which allowed them to play a range of their iconic characters. Five costumes for their most famous roles are on show here – for Robert De Niro they include Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy…
xJake La Motta in Raging Bull, The Creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein…
xSam Rothstein in Casino and of course - Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. You’ll just have to attend the exhibit to see what Meryl has to offer.
~ Act 3 ~
Finale: This is where the result comes to life. Long after the actor has hung up the dress, cape or shoes… they continue to breathe and live, wishing to share many of their stories which will ultimately overwhelm you. It opens to a collection of gowns from some of the most famous female characters from Audrey Hepburn’s as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Kate Winslet as Rose Dawson in Titanic.
Cover your necks. Winona Ryder as Mina Murray is about to be bitten by Gary Oldman as Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s… Dracula. Well who else was it going to be?
With these three characters by your side you don’t need the Avengers to protect you as you’ll be defended against Russian spies, Cybernetic organisms and… Jabba the Hut. Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, Daniel Craig’s James Bond and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800. Lots of squealing from fanboys is expected to take place on this spot.
Keanu Reeves gets ready for bullet time in his over the top black gear from The Matrix. Look closely and you can just see another Reeves, Christopher Reeves, in costume as Superman.
Tobey Maguire crawling the walls of the exhibition space as Spiderman. You’ll have to look up if you wish to find him though.
Marilyn Monroe just refuses to let go of her crown as the sexiest actress from the twentieth century. But when you see the feted white ivory cocktail dress from The Seven Year Itch, you’ll remember just why she deserves it more than the others.
As with the introduction promo pictures, Judy Garland in her most famous role as Dorothy Gale from the 1939 classic – Wizard of Oz. The costume was designed by Adrian and is one of the few costumes to have survived from the period. The dress is on loan from a private collector who has been collecting Wizard of Oz memorabilia for years.
Perhaps even more famous then Judy in Oz were her red shoes. You can see them right here but be quick as they’re only on loan for four weeks, kindly donated by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC.
Timed tickets are in operation. Advance booking is strongly recommended. Booking fees apply to advance tickets booked both online and over the phone, with a lower fee applicable to online bookings. Advance online and telephone tickets can only be booked up to 24 hours prior to visit. For more information check out the V&A website by clicking here.
20 October 2012–27 January 2013
(last ticket sold 16.45, last entry 17.00)
(last ticket sold 20.45, last entry 21.00)
Victoria and Albert Museum
+44 (0)20 7942 2000
Movie stills and promotional images courtesy of V&A Images
Standalone photography and article written by Vaskar S. Kayastha
TagsAlfred Hitchcock Andy Serkis Arnold Schwarzenegger Author: Vaskar S. Kayastha Batman BFI Brad Pitt British Film Institute Charlie Chaplin Christopher Reeves Comedy Daniel Craig Darth Vader Dorothy Gale Edward Norton Elizabeth Taylor featured Fight Club Francis Ford Coppola Frankenstein Gary Oldman George Lucas Grace Kelly Gwyneth Paltrow Han Solo Holly Golightly Hollywood Costume Indiana Jones James Bond Jason Bourne Joseph Fiennes Kate Winslet Kill Bill Love Matt Damon Meryl Streep Movie Raiders of the Lost Ark Rise of the Planet of the Apes Scarlett O'Hara Shakespeare Spiderman Superman Taxi Driver The Bourne Ultimatum The Matrix Titanic Tobey Maguire V&A Vertigo William Shakespeare Winona Ryder Wizard Wizard Of Oz
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