Saturday 15 December 2012

Hollywood Costume: A Smash Hit

This exhibition is thoroughly enjoyable and perfect for this time of year. I went with my brother, mother and some old friends from America and there was something for everyone. My brother was slightly skeptical at first about going to an exhibition all about clothes.... But as soon as we went into the exhibition it was clear that clever curating had provided a broad range of costumes from diffuse eras and film genres, with a fairly even split between costumes for men and women. Making it fabulous for a family day out during the Christmas period although pre-booking is definitely a good idea as it has proved very popular. We managed to just turn up on a Monday and get tickets at 3. 45 so it is always worth giving it a try. The V&A has such a fantastic permanent collection anyway that if you can not come by tickets there is always a great back up plan.

Of course there is much more to this exhibition then just looking at the clothes. The curators, Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Sir Christopher Frayling and Keith Lodwick, have placed the costumes alongside pertinent companion quotes from the designers, the actors or the directors. These make you really examine the costumes and give some insight into the important role that they play within the creation of not only the image but the character.

Possibly one of my favorite sections of the exhibition, pictured below, addresses how the transition from black and white films to colour cinema has effected costume design. Here the lighting is manipulated so that the costumes themselves can be seen in black and white and then in colour.

Of course a big part of the fun for myself, being quite a girly girl, was picking which costume I would most like to take home. Of course there were numerous contenders but I think I managed to cut down to a short list of the stunning dress from Atonement, the beautiful Shakespeare in love dress  and the slinky gold number that Kate Hudson wears in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, complete with the to die for Harry Winston Necklace of course. On the other hand my brother went for the magnificent red cloak of Dracula. If you are going with youngsters or even just for fun I recommend this virtual shopping approach as a light-hearted way of looking around the exhibition. Particularly useful as due to the exhibitions popularity the rooms are crowded and without being seriously persistent you were not always able to have a good read of the information.

The exhibition is infused with a really nice feeling of fun especially in the last room where you must not forget to look up.....

I thought that looking at all the care, attention and delicate craftsmanship that goes into costume design I wouldn't ever be able to watch a film in the same way again. But as I realised when I went home and re-watched on of my favourite films, Breakfast at Tiffany's, the magic of great costume design is precisely that you do not realise you are looking at costume design.