Hollywood Costume conjures a century of magical movie memories at the V&A

By Richard Moss | 22 October 2012
a photo of a pair of ruby encrusted shoes
Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz© V&A images
Exhibition Preview: Hollywood Costume, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, until January 27 2013

It's been five years in the making and the V&A is rightly talking up their latest blockbuster, Hollywood Costume, as a "once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity" to get a little glimpse of movie magic. And whatever your personal epiphany in a century of mainstream cinema, you will more than likely find it here.

If the hyperbole seems a little extravagant, the cast list of costumes, sourced from a variety of studios and private collections across the world, will probably convince - and give most visitors at least one or two goosebump moments.

Movie memorabilia doesn't get much more iconic than the gingham dress and ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz or Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp suit from the silent era.

The green velvet gown made for Vivienne Leigh’s indomitable Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind also retains an impossible allure of (moss green) glamour. Audrey Hepburn’s slinky black number from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is surely one of the most famous evening gowns in history.

Spiderman, Superman and Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones get-up for the Raiders of the Lost Ark franchise will have more recent cinema fans excited. By contrast, John Travolta’s cheap white disco suit from Saturday Night Fever and Robert De Niro’s jeans and check shirt combo from Taxi Driver will give an insight into how actors breathe life into their celluloid characters.

The latter may highlight a problem inherent in focussing squarely on costume as a vehicle for exploring the allure of Hollywood, but the role it plays in the creation of character is also explored from script to screen, via archive film footage and specially commissioned interviews which reveal the producer-designer dynamic.

Designs, sketches and archive photographs of fittings give further insights into the “process”.

But with everything from Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like it Hot cocktail dress and costumes from Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean to ogle at, it's really all about  the personal movie memories and spine tingling moments these magical exhibits trigger.

  • Open 10am-5.45pm (10pm Friday, closed December 24-26). Book tickets

Please note the original ruby slippers will be in the exhibition until November 18, after which they will be replaced by a replica pair.

More pictures:

a film still of Tippi Hedron in the Birds wearing a pale green suit
Tippi Hedron as Melanie Daniels in Hitchcock's The Birds.© Universal Pictures/Photofest/The Kobal Collection
a photo of Robert De Niro with mohican haircut, aviatror
Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver© Columbia/The Kobal Collection
a colour photo of a Judy Garland in her blue gingham dress on the set of the Wizard of Oz
Judy Garland as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz (1939)© MGM/The Kobal Collection
a photo of a gallery of ornate costumes displayed on a podium
© V&A images
a photo of a man on a ladder adjusting a Superman costume suspended in a gallery
© V&A images
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