From "Hollywood Costume" - the iconic red dress worn by Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman." Photo credit: Richard Harbaugh Copyright A.M.P.A.S.

Above and below: dresses from the DreamWorks film "Lincoln," now on display in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum's new exhibit "Lincoln: History to Hollywood." Photo courtesy of the ALPLM.

From "Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century" - an arsenic green dress. Photo courtesy of the Bata Shoe Museum.

From "Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century" - gold kid applique boots. Photo courtesy of the Bata Shoe Museum.


Focus On: Costume Exhibits

From the Midwest to Down Under, Costumes are a Museum Draw

December 2014

By Valli Herman

The opening of “Hollywood Costume” at the future site of the Academy Museum has sent a clear signal about the significance of costume design not just in movies, but in art, history and popular culture.

The exhibit is curated by Deborah Nadoolman Landis, the Academy Award-nominated Costume Designer and founding director of UCLA’s David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design. The exhibit includes 150 costumes, including the iconic white and blue gingham pinafore that Adrian created for Judy Garland as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” and the white halter dress that Marilyn Monroe wore so famously on top of a subway grate in “The Seven Year Itch.”

Seeing the original, iconic designs more than brings characters to life; it also provides priceless instruction about the textures, scale and detail in costumes that can often go unappreciated on screen. The exhibit, a production of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has been heavily attended.

When “Hollywood Costume” traveled to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, it was the most successful exhibition in the institution’s history. It’s undoubtedly the best show of its kind in the world, maybe ever, but it’s also one of several current exhibits dedicated to great film and television costumes. Here is a list of other notable exhibits of costume and fashion.

“Hollywood Costume” is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Wilshire May Company building, and the future site of the Academy Museum, through March 2.

Costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood
Down under in Australia, Brisbane resident Nicholas Inglis has been acquiring film costumes and memorabilia for nearly two decades. In “Costumes From the Golden Age of Hollywood,” the Museum of Brisbane features 69 of his nearly 300 costumes from the 1920s to 1960s. The display includes garments worn by Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Barbra Streisand and Marlon Brando. Show stoppers include a sequined, body-hugging gown worn by Jane Russell, an Irene-designed gown for Ava Gardner in “The Great Sinner” and a Helen Rose gown for Grace Kelly in “The Swan.”

“Costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood” is at the Museum of Brisbane through May 24, 2015.

Lincoln: History to Hollywood
Lincoln has come back to his roots in Springfield, Ill., via an exhibit of sets, costumes and props that were used in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Across the street from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the freshly restored Union Station train depot houses the exhibit, “Lincoln: History to Hollywood.” Featuring the highly detailed set for Lincoln’s office, part of Mary Lincoln’s bedroom set and a rotating series of costumes worn by the film’s stars Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis. “Lincoln” netted Costume Designer Joanna Johnston an Academy Award nomination. Interesting fact: The exhibit includes gloves that, in the movie, were handed to President Lincoln as he was leaving for Ford’s Theatre. He tosses the gloves aside before leaving. However, Lincoln actually had white kid gloves with him when he was assassinated. The blood-stained gloves are part of the ALPLM collection and are on display in the “Undying Words” exhibit.

“Lincoln: History to Hollywood” will be on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s Union Station annex for the next five years.

Hollywood Glamour: Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen
In a first, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, explores how American jewelry and fashion designers created iconic imagery for Hollywood during an era that was truly golden. The exhibit of 52 works includes jewelry and costumes that distinguished the iconic style of such Golden Age stars as Gloria Swanson, Anna May Wong, Great Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and Joan Crawford. Costume Designs by Travis Banton, Adrian, and Chanel are featured alongside jewelry by Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin and Paul Flato. Other jewelry is on loan from jewelry designer Neil Lane. “The sumptuous dresses in the exhibition illustrate how fashion was an ideal expression of Hollywood’s distinctive brand of escapist fantasy. Fabrics such as metallic lamé woven with real gold and silver enhanced starlets’ otherworldly aura—offering the movie viewer a taste of supreme luxury for the price of a movie ticket,” said co-curator Michelle Finamore.

“Hollywood Glamour: Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen” will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, through March.

Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century
The curator of the 90-item exhibit at the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, promises new insights into what it means to be a “fashion victim.” Though it doesn’t feature costumes, the exhibit provides great inspiration and source material for costume fans and historians. It colorfully illustrates the pleasures, and the perils, of making and wearing the era’s finery. The shimmering green of a gown? Thanks to a dye made with arsenic. The show also covers the plight of mad hatters, poisoned by mercury, and the physical impact of extremely narrow shoes, gloves and tiny corsets. The Bata Shoe Museum’s footwear focus helpfully gathers stellar examples of period styles, including exceptional hand embroidery from Parisian shoemaker Francois Pinet.

“Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century” will be at the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, through June 2016.

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