The clothes a person wears can say a lot about their personality and their choices in life, both conscious and subconscious, and nowhere is this knowledge more important than on stage and screen. Here the costume an actor wears goes a long way to creating a character, often lasting longer in our memories than their speech or movements. You certainly don’t need to see or hear Audrey Hepburn to recognise Holly Golightly’s little black Givenchy dress and gloves from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
As someone who loves both film and fashion, I had been looking forward to seeing the V&A Museum’s Hollywood Costume exhibition from the moment it was first announced. Five years in the making, the exhibition showcases some of the most iconic costumes in film history, from Charlie Chaplin’s oversized suit and bowler hat in The Tramp to the motion capture outfits from James Cameron’s Avatar, giving a fascinating insight into the artistic choices behind them.
Divided into three sections or ‘acts’, the exhibition follows the entire design process from script to screen. The first section, entitled ‘Deconstruction’, illustrates how details from the script are translated into cloth; the second, ‘Dialogue’, examines the collaboration between directors, costume designers and actors; whilst the ‘Finale’ delivers the wow-factor with one classic movie costume after another.
You might think it impossible to capture the real magic of cinema using static displays, but the V&A Hollywood Costume exhibition certainly makes a good attempt. The curators have avoided the trap of turning the show into a Madame Tussauds-style attraction and made clever use of sound, lighting and video panels to make the experience as cinematic as possible. Overall, it is a wonderful tribute to the history of cinema and a must-see for any budding film buff!