Friday, 16 November 2012

Hooray for Hollywood !

There are some exhibitions that you would kick yourself if you didn't go and see. The biggest must see draw in London right now, has to be Hollywood Costume at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Not since Mario Testino's ground-breaking 'Portraits' show at the National Portrait Gallery, have I seen genuine excitement on this level, from such a diverse audience.

Having had to queue (I know - first at Designing James Bond, now here - I hope this isn't a trend !!) I wasn't going to lose my place in the time allocated entry system. Face to face with a sullen faced, joyless cashier, I handed over my £14.00, which I thought was a tad pricey. Looking at my mini-guide, I wasn't surprised to see that the lead sponsor of Hollywood Costume is Harry Winston Jewellery !! Suddenly my £14.00 seemed like a snip !

So about that queue, yes it was unexpected and a little annoying, ( I am way, way too impatient at the best of times) but read on and you'll see why it was worth every moment of the inconvenience. Before I go on with my review however, I haveto warn you Hollywood Costume is yet another one of those exhibitions which prohibits photography. The exhibition is split into three sections.

THE TRAILER Was a cheeky, teasing short movie, that gently hinted at the gems that lay further inside. I actually gasped when I saw Scarlett O'Hara's green 'curtain' dress, beside it Beyonce's dress from Dream Girls, so skin tight, I finally understood why she went on that crazy lemon and maple syrup diet! Other gems included Charlie Chaplin's tramp outfit complete with bowler hat, costumes from the Last Emperor and Joan Crawford's diner outfit from Mildred Pierce.

Costume storyboards, were complimented by final outfits from Oceans 11, Brokeback Mountain, Fight Club, Adams Family Fun. Look out for Indiana Jones iconic adventurer outfit, broken down piece by piece, detailing its use and origin.

Queen Elizabeth I and II was represented beautifully - starting with the contemporary Queen as played by Helen Mirren, clad in Barbour jacket and plaid skirt opposite Queen Elizabeth I in the various costume guises worn by Bette Davis, Cate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench.

THE MOVIE - Featured hologram costume designers, like the legendary Edith Head (All About Eve, To Catch A Thief, Roman Holiday, Vertigo, The Birds among so many others!!) talking about her work against a backdrop of the stills from the movie and mood boards. Beside The Birds, the ultimate storybook, complete with virtual page turning, tells the story of the Gangs of New York, the characters and their clothes, as if in conversation with its costume designer Sandy Powell.

My favourite, was my seat at the table of Sweeney Todd. Projected onto the table, a blood stained chopping board, complete with a rolling pin and dripping pie. The other 'guests' at my gory table, were director Tim Burton talking about his vision of the movie with its costume designer Colleen Atwood. Pitched against the blood of Sweeney was the brutal bravery of Gladiator Russell Crowe and in complete camp contrast, the original 1936 cape of Ming the Merciless from the original Flash Gordon.

THE MOVIE FINALE - The exhibition curators truly saved the best for last, occupying a legend filled room, starring a cast of superstar costumes from the likes of My Fair Lady, Breakfast At Tiffany's, Titanic, Funny Girl, Atonement (Kiera Knightley's iconic green silk evening gown - stunning!!!!!), Chicago, Basic Instinct, 101 Dalmatians, Pirates of the Caribbean, Blade Runner, Philadelphia Story, Hello Dolly, Kill Bill, My Man Godfrey, Braveheart, Terminator, The Matrix, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Twilight, Black Swan, Independence Day, Frankenstein, Legally Blonde, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days and Borat.

Dotted around the room, overhead, on a platform, crouched on a wall and peeking over Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland - Superman, Batman, Spiderman and Catwoman. a poignant note with the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy's original dress, blouse (a replacement for the destroyed original) and her ruby slippers (viewed with the dress as a replacement), but beside Marilyn's Monroe's dress from the Seven Year Itch are a set of ruby slippers actually worn by Judy Garland in the movie.

Just like the dress, the shoes surprised me with their size - tiny. I have to admit to getting a lump in my throat, at the thought that Judy never did find happiness at the end of her rainbow.

But standing here with so many other visitors, all of us congregating together, straining to catch a glimpse of the dress, each one with our own memories of the movie, I hoped that Judy wherever she was, was somehow aware of the legacy she left behind.

Hooray for Hollywood and the V&A for putting together a jaw-dropping multi-Oscar winning ultimate Hollywood Costume exhibition - Loved it !!

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