Fashion, OldVenue

V&A’s Hollywood Costume Exhibition – review

The V&A’s Hollywood Costume exhibition opened on 20 October and runs until the end of January. It holds over 100 iconic film costumes, worn by actors from Charlie Chaplin to Christian Bale, many of which have never been on display to the public until now.

Source: V&A images

The exhibition is made up of three parts, which each take place in a different gallery, all filled with costumes. The first section focuses on the process of constructing a character and their costumes, with the designers providing explanations for elements of their clothing; in Fight Club, for example, Tyler Durden’s red leather jacket was specifically dyed the colour of dried blood. Each of the costumes are displayed in keeping with their characters, with faces projected onto them, making this much more than just an exhibition of clothing.

The second section of the exhibition features interviews with costume designers, discussing the creation and details of specific costumes, the most impressive of which was worn by Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York. Despite using mannequins, the costumes are displayed in such a lifelike way that it is eerie to see them standing around the room; Bill “The Butcher” Cuttings’ costume looked like it might stride off at any moment.

In the final room, which is arguably the most impressive, famous film characters crowd around each other on stage. I almost missed Batman’s suit, but if you look up you will see more costumes, including Spider-man, crawling down the wall. My personal favourites were Holly Golightly’s iconic black Givenchy dress as worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the green evening dress worn by Keira Knightley in the film adaptation of Atonement, and the selection of period dresses from films such as Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth, and Marie Antoinette.

I visited the exhibition as a fashion lover, wanting to see dresses worn by the likes of Monroe and Hepburn. While it did not disappoint, it would appeal equally, if not more, to lovers of film. The exhibition’s charm is universal, as it features such a range of characters, including action heroes and sci-fi stars, leading ladies and comic characters. Austin Powers’ velvet suit is displayed alongside costumes from Legally Blonde, The Blues Brothers, and Twilight.

Whether you are a Harry Potter fan, a lover of musicals, or interested in history, film or fashion, this exhibition is an excellent day out and will leave you wanting to watch your favourite films all over again.


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May 2022
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