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October 18, 2012

Hollywood Costume opens Saturday at the V&A!

by Val Reynolds

The world of costume according to Tilby:

The Queen starring Helen Mirren in the title role

The Queen starring Helen Mirren in the title role

This show is a stupendous retrospective and archive of costume memorabilia from one early film to the present day. A “must” for film and theatre makers and buffs … there are over 130 outfits displayed which have taken five years to gather.

The montage and audio visuals are stunning and innovative – collating interviews, discussions, anecdotes and drawings as well as the outfits. The curators and their team have used everything creatively to bring the exhibition to life – projection, screens, montage, props, drawings , lighting fx, interviews and script experts,  emotive film scores heighten the experience.

(I “did” the exhibition backwards as the press were spilling out into the corridor so I had a good view of everything!)

I have worked as a designer for film, opera and tv for several decades, and enjoyed the reaffirmation that the design is about creating character and helping to bring that character to life.

It is very different to the world of fashion.

Spielberg sketch

Spielberg sketch

Ultimately the two worlds overlap when the audiences fall love with or are moved by the characters in a story and that character becomes a symbol or is iconic and influences the world of fashion.

The interpretation of period costume in films is often combined with the spirit of the time in which it is made giving a twist to the genre. Yet the overall result should be to advance the drama.

That is the motivation and the raison d’etre of design for stage and film.

The story is paramount and the starting point of any movie and so unfolds the characters and the humanity.

Charlie Chaplin's suit

Charlie Chaplin’s suit

A curator told me that she was moved to tears when she saw Charlie Chaplin’s suit.

When I am researching a design or costume project I often go and look at garments to see how they were made and to study the tailoring but for me this exhibition is not about the technique and the tailoring of the costumes but about the characters and the motivations – the association is far more important.

The associations and emotions from the memory and iconography in these films have become so closely entwined … I defy you not to be moved by seeing and experiencing many of these characters and “revisiting” them !

A very enjoyable and experiential exhibition.

Anne Tilby Jones, Contributing author, film, opera and tv designer

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