22 October 2012

Hollywood Costume at the V&A

Rainy October Sundays require rainy day activities - what better then, than a trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum? The V&A is pretty much my favourite major museum in London, and they have recently had a slew of fantastic exhibitions (Ballgowns, Grace Kelly: Style Icon, The Golden Age of Couture, the upcoming Bowie retrospective) and Hollywood Costume is no exception.

The exhibition takes you through the role of the costume designer and the vital role they play in bringing characters to life. Clothing is one of the most important means of finding a character believeable - that they had a life before the film begins. The actor or actress has to inhabit these clothes to "find" the character they play. The costumes are as much about being noticed (Audrey Hepburn's little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany's) as they are about blending into the background and playing a supporting role (Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity).

Of course, one of the most important exhibits is Dorothy's gingham dress and ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. For the opening two weeks of the exhibition, the original slippers are in the same room as the gingham dress for the first time since filming wrapped in 1939. I was lucky enough to get to see these (pictured above), though talk about saving the best til last! Most of the exhibition was too dark to take any photos so as not to damage some of these extremely beautiful and very, very old costumes. As a result it wasn't particularly suited to photography, plus I suspect the V&A would have something to say about people snapping away. I couldn't resist taking a sneaky snap of the original ruby slippers, however.

I highly recommend paying this exhibition a visit - it's on until the 27th January and is one of the best exhibitions I have seen in a long time. It is so well put together and fantastically well researched, with seamless commentary from a number of actors and actresses, along with the costume designers. My favourite costumes were the shimmering red dress from The Bride Wore Red, the flowergirl outfit from the beginning of My Fair Lady, and of course the original ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL

Exhibition until the 27th January 2013