Hollywood Costume

V&A Museum, South Kensington, until January 27th.

The V&A is that person that everybody knows who has friends in all the right places and the persuasive voice that can’t be turned down. How else do you expect they managed to put together a room that contained the legends that are Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo, to name just a few.

The curation of the exhibition as a whole is excellent. At once acknowledging the legacy of films by using tripods and visible projections and playing with the idea of the moving picture while at the same time ensuring information was clearly and legibly presented. The mannequins, obviously of various different shapes and sizes, were so artfully posed that the costumes themselves managed to exude character without the actor beneath them. Grouped by period and genre, the costumes create a montage of some of the most prolific films of each era.

From initial concept and preliminary sketches through collaborative meetings between designer, director and actors to screen checks and final alterations, the exhibition does an admirable job of illuminating the process behind the pieces. This is particularly well done in the second room where there are five ‘case studies’ based around some of the biggest names in the design world with interview footage of both director and designer is played along side the display of the created character.

The exhibition has a wide ranging appeal from those who revel in the golden oldies, who appreciate the power of the silent movie (in which costumes are bestowed an even higher role) to cutting edge technology where real costumes are made but not even featured in the final film, such as Avatar. There is a feeling of actually seeing your screen idols in the flesh before you, which left me feeling just that little bit starstruck.

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