The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has recently become the home of many famous film costumes from days gone by. You could be forgiven for thinking it has been turned into a glamorous dressing room for the rich and famous, however it is actually the site of a new exhibition showcasing iconic Hollywood costumes from the last hundred years.
According to the senior guest curator of the exhibition, Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis, the Hollywood Costume Exhibition took five years to put together and a lot of hard work. The exhibition is open to the public from this weekend, 20th October, and the huge array of costumes includes: Dorothy’s original ruby slippers, The Dark Knight’s Batsuit, Indiana Jones’ hat and whip, Holly Golightly’s little black dress and Bond’s suit as worn by Daniel Craig. To accompany How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Harry Winston has specially recreated the necklace Kate Hudson wore – the only piece of fine jewellery in the exhibition.
The opening night of the exhibition saw a selection of stars and costume designers, from actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, to Deborah L. Scott, who oversaw the clothing selections for Titanic, step onto the rouge-tinted carpet. They then wended their way inside for a lavish dinner in the halls of this historic building. TFR were on hand to chat to the red carpet goers and find out what they think about Hollywood costumes through the years.
Andy Serkis – best-known for playing Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films
As an actor, how important is costume to you?
It’s vastly important. When you start working on a character one of your first ports of call is the costume designer. With Gollum, it’s interesting because in actual fact he doesn’t really have much apart from a loin cloth anyway, so there there isn’t much costume there. You have to do all that work internally for characters like this. But what you do have and what is important to recognise when you’re building a role like Gollum, is that it’s the equivalent of looking into a mirror, you can actually look into a screen and your digital avatar moves around because you’re wearing the suit. You can then start to literally physicalise and feel how that character fits with you. Also, the nakedness that we feel wearing a motion suit probably helps in this instance.
What are you particularly excited about seeing in this exhibit?
I’m interested in seeing the heritage of 100 years of costumes and hearing the stories and anecdotes. What I think this exhibition is focussing in on is the relationship of the actors with the costume, how character is formed by costume, their relationship with the costume designers and the importance of this relationship. Apart from seeing iconic costumes, which we’re very much looking forward to seeing, it’s hearing other people’s takes on how costumes affect them as actors.
Do you feel that when you put on a costume you instantly change into that character?
It can make me feel that. When you’re thinking of turning up at 5 o’clock in the morning to go on set, it often makes you immediately get going when the costume feels right. It’s such a vitally important part of character creation, the way that it’s manifested on screen, the way it’s perceived and the way people react to you when you’re wearing that costume. If you’re playing a monarch or a king, you need to have that sense that the costume will do a lot of the work for you.
In terms of stepping back into Middle Earth, the costumes there are so iconic, how do you feel being amongst all that on set?
It makes me feel quite paranoid, because I don’t get to wear any of those costumes actually. I get to wear a performance capture suit in Middle Earth. But it is right for the role, it makes you feel that Gollum is exposed, he wouldn’t be wearing that much anyway apart from a loincloth.
Are you excited about the prospect of having a third movie as well?
I’m very excited about that yes. I think it’s kind of inevitable in a way, in that there’s so much good material being shot over the last year and a half. I think that the way the first film is now structured and where it leaves room for the development of the second and third movies is perfect. There are so many moments, so many great characters and there’s such a wealth of wonderful material that I think it would have been a shame to hem them into two pictures.
Bill Bailey – Comedian
Is there a costume you would have loved to have worn?
Do you know what, I was watching The Creature from the Black Lagoon the other day and I thought, that is a cool costume. The monster suit. That is a serious piece of kit.
Gurinder Chadha – known for directing Bend It Like Beckham
What is your process for coming up with the costumes in a film?
The first thing to do is to find the right costume designer. With them, you will discuss the overall look, tone and feel of your movie and also, the essential work of the costume designer is the character building. So when you have your actor and your costume designer together, the journey they go on to fully define who that character is, where they’re from, why they’ve got that handbag, how many years they’ve had it etc. Everything everyone wears in a movie is the result of hundreds of minutes of thought, about exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing.
What about working on a film like Bend It Like Beckham, is that a career highlight?
Oh my goodness yes, and now we’re working on the Bend It Like Beckham West End stage musical, so costume will be a big part of that as well. I’m directing it.
Deborah L. Scott – Costume designer, including Titanic
Obviously, you did the costumes for Titanic, which is such an iconic film, how do you feel having had a piece chosen for the exhibition?
I couldn’t even believe it, there are so many costumes to choose from. To be chosen, it’s such an amazing gift. It’s really gratifying, after all the work I put into that film, to think that everyone around the world knows those costumes.
How long did you work on Titanic for?
I worked on Titanic for about a year and a half. Now it’s like, “Here, can you do it in two weeks?”
Obviously you designed Rose’s dresses. Did you also design a broad span of other clothing in that film?
Yes. I really enjoyed doing the men’s wear and the lower class stuff too. It was fun to learn more about people around the world and how we wanted to represent them.
Penny Rose – Costume designer of Pirates of the Caribbean
Did you enjoy creating the costumes for Pirates of the Caribbean?
Yes I did, Captain Jack Sparrow’s is of course my favourite. There are a lot of components to it.
What would you say is the most iconic costume of the last 100 years?
Dorothy’s dress, from the Wizard of Oz.
Sophie de Rakoff – Costume designer for Legally Blonde
What are you looking forward to seeing in the exhibition?
I’m looking forward to seeing the Dorothy dress, the Fight Club Outfit, Gone With the Wind, all the big ones that you never get to see.
How important do you think an exhibition like this is to celebrate the process that goes into designing costumes?
I think it’s incredibly important and the fact that it’s in this museum shows that it’s getting the recognition it deserves.