Hollywood Costume at the V&A Giveaway

If you’re in London this week, it’s your final chance to catch the Hollywood Costume at the V&A exhibition.  The bad news is that it’s a sold-out show but if you’re one of V&A’s 33,000 members, you can get in any time without booking and take one guest (which is how I went, thanks Carol!).  Thinking of becoming a member and got some Christmas gift money to spend?!  This might be your ticket!

Anyone who loves film will find one of their favourite characters.  OK, so the stars may be missing but there’s none of that deadness of a wax museum here. There’s music, movie clips and, in some cases, screens of actors’ faces poised just above their outfits.  Best of all are the write-ups explaining how the costumes were made and by whom, and giving other info such as what the criteria for designing them were.  For a seamstress like myself, this more than adequately fleshed out the material content, e.g did you know that the crown of Indiana Jones’ Fedora had to be altered as the original shape didn’t flatter Harrison Ford’s head (now, what does that remind me of?  This!) whereas the brim had to be shortened so that the camera could peer under and catch the face. 

Photography in the exhibition is not permitted but I have some of the films at home and so took stills to give you an idea of what’s there:

Dorothy’s blouse and dress, rather modest and faded-looking, and quite unlike the garish fancy-dress versions we’ve become accustomed to.  The shoes are just as red and sparkly as you’d imagine though.

Designed by Edith Head, this lovely two-piece eau-de-nil suit worn by Tippi Hedren in The Birds.  Hitch apparently didn’t like costume to compete with the content of film.

Cleopatra‘s black chiffon gown, embellished with hundreds of coral and pearl sequins.

This white linen dress, worn so very briefly, but made exquisitely and fit for a goddess.  The third Cleopatra item in the exhibition is the green silk dress at the top of this post which happens to be one of my favourite exhibits: worn by Claudette Colbert in the 1934 film.  It owes less to Egypt and more to the Art Deco style lines of of the time.  Also here is Guinevere’s dress from Camelot, a film which I never thought I’d want to see again till now I’ve seen a close-up of the most interesting wedding dress ever, made by hundreds of skilled cutters, embroiderers and seamstresses and sewn in with thousands of tiny, translucent shells and pumpkin seeds

I noticed as I walked around Hollywood Costume that the visitors to this exhibitions were pretty much divided 50:50 along the male/female lines (this isn’t something I would have said of Ballgowns or Quilts!)  Ladies, this is a testosterone-tolerant show alright so if you have a dad, son or a date, bring along!  You can marvel together at the slimness of Travis Bickle‘s waist.  Or laugh at Borat‘s 1980s-inspired suit (“It had no style whatsoever!” boasts the designer).  Or maybe pay homage to the dressing gown of The Dude, the overly-comfortable garment worn for the writing of the $0.67 cheque scene.  Question: why did the designers have to procure 4 dressing gowns for The Dude?! A. ‘Cause he had to keep getting his bonce shoved down the bog!!

The Gift Shop Goodies Birthday Giveaway 

This blog’s 1st birthday is soon coming up and on the 8th Feb I’ll be celebrating by giving away 3 V&A/Hollywood Costume prizes: 

1. V&A magazine, the winter edition, including an interview with the costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who is also the curator of this exhibition.


 2. A Hollywood Shopper

An A4-sized shopper of the kind you sewistas could knock off in about 5 mins, but it’s very starry and it’s nice to win sometimes, right?!

3. Postcards from the exhibition (plus sparkly pencil)

Kim Novak’s Vertigo outfit designed by Edith Head (and not unlike something out of a Boden winter catalogue), Scarlett O’Hara’s velvet curtain dress designed by Walter Plunkett and Dorothy’s red shoes, which apparently had to make themselves absent from the exhibition for a week during Thanksgiving last year when they were returned to the U.S.  (they must be magic!)

To win one of the above, enter the draw by commenting below.  Tell me what your all-time favourite Hollywood costume is and/or answer this question, however wrongly …

Q Who am I?

a) My costume is at the V&A

b) I wear leather jeans à la Jim Morrison (PHWOAR!!)

c) … and a Nazi helmet ( … 😯 )

d) … and World War I trench armour (…. 😕 )

e) … and a big plastic calculator (…. 😀 )

And don’t even think about typing the above into Google as you’ll probably break the Internet…


18 thoughts on “Hollywood Costume at the V&A Giveaway

  1. By coincidence Rosie and I were there last night. We loved it, all those gorgeous dresses to admire and of course Captain Jack Sparrow.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the exhibition. When will we be seeing some of your recreations?! The Addams family made me smile – especially baby Pubert. But I agree, the details in some of those costumes was breathtaking.

    • Ooh, which to recreate first? The Catwoman outfit? The Cleopatra dress? The Bill the Butcher ‘Grunge Dandy’ outfit for the OH?! Might have to gain more skills first!

  3. I got there last week – fantastic I was in my element. Have to say my absolute favourite was Scarlet’s green velvet dress have longed to see this in the flesh as it were and it did not disappoint. Answer to your riddle. Is it Darth Vadar

  4. Great review! Haven’t heard of this show and look forward to seeing it when it comes to the US. I’m lucky to live near LA…every year FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) has a museum show of some of the past year’s film’s costumes. It is amazing to see the details in the garments and marvel at how short this actor is, and how tiny this actress is. Thanks again for the heads up on this show.

  5. Yes, the Dude in leather trousers with a calculator for a chest was Darth Vader.

    More importantly, the draw winners are Magical Effects of Thinking, Jane and Sophie. I’ll be contacting you for your addresses!

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