Costumes from century of film go on show

More than 100 of Hollywood’s most memorable costumes are to be brought together for the first time by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in an exhibition dedicated to a century of costume design in film.

The show will display classics ranging from Dorothy’s blue and white gingham pinafore dress designed for The Wizard of Oz (1939) to the little black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and the yellow jumpsuit worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Volume I (2003).

“Costume design is at last being recognised for what it is. It is not fashion design, fancy dress or theatre design,” said Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis, senior guest curator who has designed costumes for Michael Jackson’s Thriller as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark.

“Costumes can ignite worldwide fashion trends and they become embedded in the collective unconscious,” she said.

The exhibition will explore the role of costume design as al tool of cinema storytelling and will take visitors through the creative process from script to screen. It will also look at the changing social and technological context in which costume designers have worked over the past century.

Sir Christopher Frayling, guest curator, said: “Costume is the only physical trace that film leaves. In the golden age of Hollywood costumes were reused, cut up and very little was left.”

The exhibition will be split into three parts. The first will look at the role of the costume designer in cinema and will explore how designers create unique individuals in the script. This will include a dissection of the costumes made by designer Alexandra Byrne in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).

The second section uses archival footage and interviews to explore four key director/designer pairings including Tim Burton and Colleen Atwood who have made nine films, from Edward Scissorhands (1990) to Alice in Wonderland (2010).

Speaking about the importance of costume, actress Meryl Streep said: “On every film, the clothes are half the battle in creating the character. I have a great deal of opinion about how my people are presented. We show a great deal by what we put on our bodies.”

The final section of the exhibition will show some of the most well-known costumes in cinema history from the green silk charmeuse gown worn by Keira Knightley as Cecilia Tallis in Atonement (2007) to the red beaded dress worn by Joan Crawford in The Bride Wore Red (1937).

“It has taken five years to find these clothes,” said Prof Landis. The costumes in the exhibition have come from a range of sources, including private collections. The curators were approached by one person who, when he met them in the City, led them into the vaults of a bank and produced Dorothy’s pinafore from the The Wizard of Oz.

The exhibition will run from October 20 until January 27 2013.

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