London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is planning a new exhibit called “Hollywood Costume” which aims to boost appreciation of costume design and similar behind-the-scenes crafts.
The gallery, consisting of three sections, will utilize film clips, projection and other forms of staging in order to display the costumes in their most realistic contexts. Legendary directors, designers and actors such as Martin Scorsese and Alfred Hitchcock will provide interviews, and Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro will give personal explanations on the importance of costume in building characters.
The exhibit will feature more than one hundred famous costumes, including the blue and white pinafore from “The Wizard of Oz,” Vivien Leigh’s green curtain dress from “Gone with the Wind,” and Audrey Hepburn’s black Givenchy from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The featured outfits will range from Charlie Chaplain’s silent films, to looks from “Titanic,” to more modern costumes from films like “Avatar”.
Ann Roth, an Academy Award-winning costume designer, recently discussed the art with the exhibit’s senior guest curator Deborah Nadoolman Landis. Landis worked in costume design as well, and now leads the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at UCLA.
She explained: “Our directors depend on us to create these characters. I hate to say this but we are really looking for truth in that character.”
Roth also has experience in the field, having done costume design for films including “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Midnight Cowboy.” She added that her and her team are much more enthusiastic about working with actors who hope to develop their character, as opposed to “movie stars” who maintain an image with demands like “I don’t wear yellow.”
She added, “Meryl Streep is of course perfection. We can stand in a fitting room and by an hour into it, there are 14 half pairs of earrings, waist-cinchers, shoes with heels, shoes without heels, telephone books to put on the heels, dressmakers, someone to take notes, a hairdresser. It’s sweaty and tiresome. There’s a three-way mirror that she’s looking into.”
Roth explained that eventually “the character happens and there’s no controlling it. Once that happens, you know what to do.”