Last September FFF reported on the opening of the V&As newest exhibition, Hollywood Costume (http://filmsfilmsfilms.co.uk/blog/handbags_gladrags_and_bullwhips/2012-09-28-19). Five months later on the exhibitions last weekend we finally paid a visit. And what a treat it was.
Wandering through three large halls packed with movie costumes from every era of Hollywood, we were stunned by just how many classic outfits the V&A had managed to pull together. We almost didn’t know where to look first. Beautifully presented with moving video heads in place of the actor’s heads, and specially filmed interviews and mini documentaries, we could have spent the whole afternoon wallowing in the displays.
Most striking was the almost bizarre sensation of being just inches away from costumes we had seen so many times before on glowing screens. First to cause us to lean in for a closer look was Charlie Chaplin’s legendary Little Tramp outfit. Having only ever seen it in black and white, it was strange to see the different shades of grey and the dark brown trim on the jacket. The Ocean’s Eleven (2001) ensemble togs weren’t quite as glamorous in the flesh, Rusty’s combo in particular looking garish without Brad Pitt beneath it.
Nicole Kidman’s pink swing-seat basque with its staggering array peacock feathers was only missing the Australian actresses’ never-ending legs. Standing next to Indiana Jones sandblasted attire was a revelation. It was exactly what we expected it to be, and a whole lot more. The detail in the jacket, the scuffed brown boots, that fedora, it was perfect. The same couldn’t be said for Harrison Ford’s other renowned outfit, Han Solo’s black waistcoat, white shirt get-up; it didn’t look anywhere near as impressive as it did in George Lucas’ world. There were many stunning female costumes, hand stitched to perfection, none more so than the Queen Elizabeth-in-the-movies display. We were also amazed by the tiny waists of dresses crafted for Beyonce, Keira Knightley and Audrey Hepburn.
A lovely joint display focused on costumes from Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep, while the last main hall moved towards blockbusters films. A favourite of mine was a small section dedicated to Tippi Hedren in The Birds (1963), casting new light on a movie I thought I knew everything about.
I was sorely tempted to steal Uma Thurman’s yellow ‘Bride’ Asics trainers. We couldn’t believe that John McClane’s strides in Die Hard (1988) were actually corduroy trousers. The only disappointments were the Dark Knight/Christian Bale and Catwoman/Michelle Pfeiffer costumes which for some annoying reason were stuffed up high on platforms out of view. But all told it was a superb few hours that shed a whole new light on the role of costume designers and the part costumes play in shaping our movies. Here’s hoping the V&A bring us another movie themed exhibition soon.