Saturday, December 28, 2013

VMFA "Hollywood Costume" Exhibit

On December 14, 2013, I attended the Hollywood Costume exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I had been looking forward to this show for almost a year only to move out of town a week before it opened. Then, when the scheduled day finally came, I ended up feeling ill and almost canceling (if I had not had people expecting me to be there.) I'm glad I went after all (we had our tickets changed from 10am to 11am after I was over 20 minutes late!*
Funny Girl

The exhibit, on loan from the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum in London, England, explored the important role that costume design plays in character and story development. This particular show differed from the private collection I saw at the James L. Michener museum in Pennsylvania a few years ago, in the fact, that the majority of costumes were more modern. The most represented decades were the 80-90s. However, I was not disappointed.

The exhibit was arranged into small themed sections, complete with movie soundtracks, still shots of the costumes on actors, and film clips. Also present were video interviews with directors, actors, and costume designers, such as Tim Burton, Meryl Streep, and designer Sandy Powell.

A few costumes that caught my eye because of their details:
  • Marilyn Monroe's The Seven Year Itch dress, though copied many times, I was still surprised to see the crossed straps and tied bow detail on the midriff waistband. I had not seen many of the replicas include that detail.
  • Johnny Depp's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ensemble with a worn waxed cloth jacket with wide, strangely high breastbone pockets (I suppose made for his razors)
  • Sandy Powell's costume for Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York a perfect example of distressed clothing, no lining, and with no finishing except a zigzag stitch.

There were three costumes I was pleasantly surprised to see, from three of my favorite movies, a cozy green secretary ensemble from Vertigo (1957), a purple sequin and silk flower covered 1930s-inspired frock from Funny Girl (1968) and an exquisite hippy-chic wedding gown from Camelot**(1967).

*Sorry, Audrey!
** Expect to read more about the costumes from this movie soon.

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