Relive The Movies – From the Golden Age to Today – In Amazing New VMFA Exhibit
It’s hard to grasp the scope of many movies – the big screen, or even at home, the experience brings you in only as close as your eyes will take you. But a new exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts hopes to bring you even closer with a massive collection of famous movie costumes that is both informative and breath-taking.
Being a world renown art museum, it might be hard for some to understand what movie costumes are doing along side classical area masterpieces and modern art. But the exhibit’s Deputy Director, Robin Nicholson, said the impact cinema has had in the art world has elevated its importance. To Nicholson, it would be a shame for the museum, which considers itself an encyclopedic in its attempt to capture as much visual culture from around the world as possible, not to examine the topic.
“Arguably cinema is the greatest art form of the 20th and 21st century – the most democratic, popular and accessible that exists today,” said Nicholson. “So for us… not to try to explore this visual culture would be a major oversight.”
Hollywood Costume, according to Nicholson, is an attempt to preserve what remains after the rest of a movie’s production has ended. Actors dies, sets are broken down, props are lost, but the costumes, and their lasting image, remain. “The costumes which are key to the creation of the characters we all love,” said Nicholson.
For a deeper look the exhibit’s designer, Doug Fisher, spoke about the lesser known stars who worked behind the scenes to make the starlets and heroes we saw on the screen so memorable.
“Hollywood Costume explores the central role that costume design plays in story telling,” said Fisher. “It examines the collaborative dialogue that goes on between actor, designers and directors that brings to life some of our most memorable characters.”
Fisher spoke about some of the specific pieces as well, with an accent on the Golden Age of Hollywood costumes on display.
The 1934 classic Sampson and Delilah featured an incredible frock by 8-time oscar winning costume designer Edith Head. The long, flowing garb made up of interlaced peacock feathers is featured in the exhibit. Fisher said the feathers actually came from Cecil B Demille’s peacock farm – he brought buckets of feathers to help with the finished product.
One of the many beautiful dresses from 1963′s Cleopatra is on display as well. Fisher joked that, at the time of production, the movie was considered to be historically accurate, but we know realize that to be a bit of a stretch. Either way, the dress, as described by Fisher, is incredible.
“What you will see is an amazing bias-cut satin dress that has been meticulously pinned up into a chevron pattern that fits onto the actresses body like liquid metal.”
In one of the more dramatic displays in the exhibit, Judy Garland’s famous pinafore from the Wizard of Oz, as well as the ruby slippers, are presented along side the Wicked Witch of the West’s black hat. Fisher said the version of the famous blue-checkered dress on display was actually the 3rd version of the dress – the first was scrapped all together, the second made it for about a month before producers decided the entire look was off – Garland was wearing a blond wig and done up in baby-doll make up as well. But the version at the VMFA is the one we all know and love.
“The dress was redesigned, and has since become an icon of American popular culture,” said Fisher.
The exhibit is remarkably displayed, with all the costume’s lit beautifully. It’s a site to behold, and while a number of the more classic pieces are discussed in this article, costumes from modern productions, from Terminator 2 to Brokeback Mountain, Taxi Driver to Rock VI, and of course, the long hinted Batman costume, are all on display.
The Hollywood Costume exhibit opens November 9th and runs till Feb 17. You can get tickets online through the VMFA’s website.
There is also a series of companion events, including screenings of almost all the movies represented in the exhibit, starting later this month. Find a full list of events here.
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