Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Costumes of Hollywood royalty: dressed to the nines

Today I'm bringing you highlights from a fantastic exhibit called Hollywood Costume at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. It's on view there from now through February 17, 2014 and is the only East Coast showing of the collection, curated originally by the Victoria and Albert museum in London. Exhaustively researched, it displays more than 100 of the most recognizable costumes designed for unforgettable characters in cinema. (I've linked throughout to discount books and DVDs relating to these film icons if you'd like to stock up.)
The exhibition includes cinema costumes from private and studio archives, and most have never been publicly displayed or available for viewing. It explores in detail how the design and use of costume has been central to the creation of some of the most iconic characters in popular culture and is a key component in what is one of the greatest art forms of the 20th century.  The artistry, mastery, and methods of Hollywood’s greatest costume designers is duly honored in this magnificent array of creations.
Showing different eras of sexuality and style are Marilyn Monroe's va va voom dress from The Seven Year Itch (1955); Claudette Colbert's seductive green silk satin gown from Cecil B. DeMille's epic Cleopatra (1934); Marlene Dietrich’s tuxedo from Morocco (1930); and her amazing chiffon gown for Angel (1937), trimmed in Russian sable and embroidered with hand-sewn sequins and Austrian crystal beads.

As if that wasn't enough, the exhibit is complemented by another one called Made in Hollywood, which showcases more than 90 original vintage prints by the most important photographers working there from 1920–1960. Selected from the Kobal Foundation collection in England, it features portraits of some of the greatest stars during the golden age of the film industry, including Chaplin, Garbo, Dietrich, Bogart, Gable, and dozens more. Right: Judi Dench wore this splendid getup to play Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, 1998. The red costume behind it was worn by Katharine Hepburn in Mary of Scotland, 1936.
Above: Jean Harlow and Elizabeth Taylor, from the Kobel collection. Below: "super-duper Gary Cooper"; Dietrich strikes a pose; famous screen couples Gable and Crawford and Fred & Ginger.
Hedy Lamarr, one of the more fabled beauties of Tinseltown.
A Monroe candid
Vivien Leigh pondering better days in GWTW.
Boy genius Orson Welles
Fight Club costumes
Audrey Hepburn, being "loverly"
 Russell Crowe’s battle armor from Gladiator (2000) is featured, as are Charlton Heston’s duds from Ben Hur.
 Villains are not slighted either. Cruella de Vil and Ming the Merciless make a good couple, eh?

Further reading/viewing:


  1. ....I think I must see this exhibit. Richmond is not too far from Maryland, I bet I could make this into a day trip. Thank you so much for the information and the pictures! I am not one to read gossip magazines about stars and care about what celebrities are dating (and so forth), but I do think that costumes and photographs are iconic and a can make for a great history and artistic lesson.

  2. Miss Monroe is accompanied by a book--"The Thinking Body". A Yoga instructional, I think.