Leather Jackets, Little Black Dresses and Ruby Slippers: Hollywood Costumes at the V&A

The magic of the movies, the allure of Hollywood and the razzle dazzle of the business-we-call-show quickly becomes part of our modern mythology. In Hollywood Costumes the V&A brings together over a hundred (131 to be exact) of the most iconic costumes to explore the roles of clothes in cinema. Inspired, I donned a gingham shirt and some new red shoes (“You are a friend of Dorothy!” quipped a friend) and off I went.

“The apparrel oft proclaims the man” claimed Polonius, but do the clothes make the character? Well, in a word, yes.

Leather Jackets

“It’s a very bizarre costume,” says Harrison Ford of his Indiana Jones get-up, which gets a whole display to itself, “It’s this guy sporting a whip, who’s off some place really hot in this leather jacket.” So what makes it so iconic? “The minute I put the costume on. I feel confident and clear about the character.”

(Didn’t George Michael have something like that going on? For a while anyway, until he decided sometimes the clothes do not make the man.)

Little Black Dresses

Coco Chanel popularised the concept of the LBD and we’re lucky enough to see two of the most famous ones in popular culture; Morticia Addams‘s  instantly recognisable and excruciatingly tight outfit and Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy-designed costume for her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Interestingly, Audrey’s glamorous costume is displayed next to her rather-less-than-glamorous threads from the beginning of My Fair Lady creating a most pleasing juxtaposition. Although Ms Golightly was the height of chic as well as top banana in the shock department, she was nowhere near as sexy as Marilyn Monroe in that dress which is also on display.

Ruby Slippers

Ever since they skipped along the Yellow Brick Road on the feet of the girl from Kansas, the Ruby Slippers were destined for Super-Stardom. Famously, their colour was changed from L. Frank Baum’s original silver to the more familiar ruby red so they really popped in glorious techinicolour as they made their way to the Emerald City. They may have aged, but they retain the enchantment that has captured imaginations since they first appeared on screens. Arranged with the toes pointing inwards, you can almost hear Dorothy’s incantation “There’s no place like home…”

This exhibition marks the first time the famous footwear has left the USA, usually they take pride of place in the Smithsonian Institute of American History but until 18th November we can see them this side of the pond. Meanwhile, Kermit the Frog keeps their place warm until they return home.

All the costumes were incredible, but some, like Nicole Kidman’s Satine was a tantalising diamond just out of reach. Others, like Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman were hidden high in the shadows.

You can find out more about visiting the exhibition here.

You can see a souvenir badge from Hollywood Costume at the Museum of Museum Badges.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. ericleather says:

    Leather jackets give the character some character.


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