After opening in London’s V&A Museum in 2012, traveling to Australia and two American cities, Hollywood Costume finally comes to Los Angeles, where the vast majority of the films and costumes that make up the exhibition originated. The idea and impetus for the exhibition also started in Los Angeles, well Beverly Hills, with Deborah Nadoolman Landis, costume designer and current professor, founding director, and Chair of the David C. Copley Center for for the Study of Costume Design at UCLA. It is altogether fitting that the exhibition be in Los Angeles, but even more significantly, that it opens on the site of the future home of the Museum of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The museum has been in the planning stages for years, but is now solidly in the works and set to open in 2017 in a major reworking of the former May Company department store on Wilshire Boulevard in the “Miracle Mile,” a site leased from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Hollywood Costume the exhibition is open now through March 15, 2015.
Some 150 costumes are on exhibit, ranging from the silent era through Hollywood’s Golden Age to last year’s Oscar nominee The Dallas Buyer’s Club. Iconic costumes are included such as Marilyn Monroe’s “subway dress” from The Seven Year Itch, Judy Garland’s pinafore from The Wizard of Oz, and the Academy Museum’s recently acquired treasure, the “#7” pair of the Ruby Slippers, the ones in the best condition out of all those known to exist. Other wonders include Marlene Dietrich’s sequins and crystal-studded gown and cape from Angel designed by Travis Banton, Norma Shearer’s court dress from Marie Antoinette designed by Adrian, Jean Hagen’s flapper dress from Singing in the Rain designed by Walter Plunkett, and Marilyn Monroe’s sequin decorated and fur-trimmed gown from Some Like it Hot, and Ginger Roger’s mink skirt lined in sequins designed by Edith Head.
The exhibition as conceived by Deborah Nadoolman Landis was to put costume in the context of the character, the actors, the plot and the total movie experience. So sections of the script are on view, as are screens with projections of the actor’s faces. The multimedia approach has filmed interviews, monologues, and film clips. The costume design process is explored through scripts highlighting personality clues, costume sketches, budget breakdowns, and fittings.
Above is pictured a blown up section of a script. The costumes shown are from Kim Novak in Vertigo and Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, designed by Edith Head and Milo Anderson respectively.
The Indiana Jones costume is well recognized. It was designed by Deborah Nadoolman Landis herself.
Some other well recognized costumes are on view. The eye-popping red gown at left was worn by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Barbara Streisand’s costume in Hello Dolly, at left and Funny Lady at right, and in the background is Ginger Rogers in Lady in the Dark, and at right Kate Winslet in Titanic.
Marilyn Monroe’s “subway dress” is shown above. It was designed by Travilla, who designed many of her film costumes. It was sold in the famous Debbie Reynolds auction in 2011 for $4.6 million, minus commission, by Profiles in History.
One of the most fantastic costumes from Hollywood’s Golden Age is Marlene Dietrich’s gown from Angel, 1937, designed by Travis Banton. It is a marvel of Hollywood studio craftsmanship. It was made from chiffon and embroidered with thousands of hand-sewn silver and gold sequins and Austrian crystal beads, which took weeks to make. The stole is trimmed in Russian sable. It was lent by Larry McQueen who took great pains to restore it.
Men’s costumes, and the blockbuster superheroes, are represented as well, including Superman, Batman, and Captain America.
Deborah Nadoolman Landis introduced the exhibition opening on October 1st.
If you are in the Los Angeles area in the next several months and can book a ticket, go a see it. This is one of those very special exhibitions that will not likely come around again.