I’m not going to lie, when I heard that the Victoria & Albert museum in London is hosting a “Hollywood Costumes” exhibition this October, I was pretty darn excited. In fact, I hadn’t been that excited since I heard The Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield was re-opening! So in overall regard to my happiness, it was a good week.
Since the announcement, there has been widespread interest in the forthcoming exhibition and the V&A are expecting it to be one of their most popular showcases yet. However, the exhibition is not designed, nor will it pay homage, to the typical swooning style moments in films. Instead, the exhibition wants to showcase the beauty and intricate work of costume design.
While catwalk fashion and movie costumes have had a symbiotic relationship since their parallel existence, there is a subtle difference in a beautiful outfit and the beauty of an outfit in a film. While we have all swooned over Hepburn’s Givenchy dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Marilyn’s bright pink number in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, they’re not exactly costume design, are they, darling?
Movie stars can look sensational in beautiful outfits but the V&A exhibit wants to pay homage to the clothing that gave insight into the characters the actors were portraying. So, instead or an array of jaw-dropping outfits, the exhibition will include Stallone’s shorts from Rocky, Darth Vader’s cape and Dorothy’s gingham dress that she wore clicking down the yellow brick road.
Doesn’t sound as appealing now? Au Contraire! This exhibition is an opportunity to respect an often neglected part of filmmaking. While each outfit may not be to your personal taste – that Darth Vader cape would be a pain to try and pull off while doing the shopping in Tesco – it’s not difficult to appreciate the story behind it. Good costume design provides insight into a character’s class, education, personality and outlook. Those in charge of an actor’s set wardrobes will devote hours to deciding what kind of connotations the clothes will send to the audience.
And when you think about it, it’s not that much different from life, is it? We all have different styles that we wear depending on the occasion, environment and the kind of message we want to send to the people we’re meeting. You would hardly feel comfortable turning up for a work meeting in a sparkly mini-dress and likewise, you would feel incredibly awkward arriving at a trendy club dressed in a business suit. In reality, this exhibition has much more in common with us “common-folk” than another tribute to some fabulous clothes. That’s not to say that there won’t be some “Oh My God” gowns (including those which graced the back of Marlene Dietrich and Keira Knightly), but the exhibition will take an inclusive view of the world of film fashion. Now that can’t be bad for inspiration, can it?