Ohhh they tease you, they know how to lure you round and then BOOM! The most breathtaking collection of iconic costumes the world will ever see, all together in one place for the first time. Goths will rejoice at seeing costumes belonging to the Addams family (including Goth Idol Wednesday’s dress and two of Morticia’s!) and I can’t believe I’ve been in the presence of Scarlett O’Hara’s curtain dress and Charlie Chaplin’s actual real tramp costume AND the Dude’s bathrobe!
Joan Crawford’s blood red gown from The Bride Wore Red was covered in millions of shimmering scarlet beads – that thing was ALIVE, pooling on the floor like liquid blood. I naughtily scuttled past the techy motion capture avatar stuff – borrrring, show me the pretty dresses!
The exhibition’s curators came up with endlessly ingenious ways of conveying the moving pictures that the clothes featured in – dynamic, inventive, witty, making full and imaginative use of technology – script pages turning before your eyes, bringing the clothes back to life, breathing life into hanging fabrics. There are digital ‘mood boards’ and screens facing each other showing an imagined conversation between Tippi Hendren and Edith Head, costume designer on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.
So why did I cry? Well, if you’ve watched a film scores of times, seeing some of these costumes is like encountering an old friend – I got this lovely familiar feeling when I found Lucy Honeychurch’s marvellously Edwardian white cotton frock from A Room With a View – that took me right back to afternoons at my friend’s house watching it on VHS, endlessly pausing and naughtily rewinding the bit where the boys dance naked round the pond in the forest and Lucy encounters them!
And when I saw Barbara Streisand’s golden gown from Hello Dolly I immediately welled up – that was a familiar sight from my childhood and was probably one of the triggers for my lifelong love of fashion.
The final room actually made me choke up (again), it was so breathtaking. Seeing the costume Christopher Reeve wore in Superman flying from the ceiling, and Dorothy’s ruby slippers all small and scuffed and faded really brought home to me the vital role clothes have played in creating these characters who are part of our cultural landscape – it’s like looking into the 20th century’s wardrobe.
Tickets are selling out ridiculously quickly, especially at weekends so I would strongly advise you to buy yours NOW.
Hollywood Costume at the V&A runs until January 27, 2013. For more information and tickets visit vam.ac.uk
Co-founder and co-editor of Pamflet. Bookworm, bluestocking, Brown Owl. Loves Garconnes style, reading, writing, ranting and raving. Gin snob.