Did you know that Dorothy’s shoes were originally meant to be silver? Or that a ranch hand from the time of Brokeback Mountain would only wear Levi jeans and never Wrangler? These are just some of the juicy tit-bits of movie knowledge we soaked up at the Victoria and Albert museum’s latest exhibition, Hollywood Costume. Taking over three galleries in the iconic London museum, Hollywood Costume sees 130 iconic film costumes on display to celebrate an art that rarely gets much attention. And whether it’s a glittering bandeau dress worn by Beyonce in Dreamgirls or an encrusted, corseted gown worn by Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette it’s undeniable these costumes tell a story before the characters even open their mouths.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn this show isn’t just stiff models sporting our favourite character ensembles but delves into the reasoning and collaborations behind the amazing creations that have been seared in our memories direct from celluloid. One of our favourite bits was dedicated to video conversations between costume designers and directors, illuminating the importance of their collaboration in the film making process. Highlights include Martin Scorsese claiming, “costume is character!” and Tim Burton waxing lyrical on the costume designer’s crucial role in realising his dream worlds. There’s even a section dedicated to two of the all-time acting greats; Robert de Niro and Meryl Streep. Both of whom speak extensively in videos on how necessary costume is to their character creations as well as talking through individual outfits. (Cue Meryl Streep’s red-faced detailing of her sparkle-tastic Mamma Mia costume!)
Lest we forget to mention it, seeing the pieces in the ‘flesh’ does make for a pretty special experience. We couldn’t help but smile on hearing actress Tippi Hedren talk about the green twin-set she wore in Hitchcock’s The Birds, as we sat within touching distance. And we were borderline giddy after seeing ‘that’ white dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch and ‘those’ red shoes worn by Judy Garland from The Wizard of Oz in 1939. There’s no denying this is an exhibition that really does only come along once in a lifetime. When again will all these incredible costumes –from Chaplin through to Avatar! – be in the same room? There’s no doubt this is an exhibition like no other and us Topshop girls can’t remember the last time we saw something quite this exciting.