LONDON: Dorothy's blue and white dress and her sparkling ruby slippers have travelled from Oz to London's Victoria and Albert museum, where more than 130 of cinema's iconic costumes star in a new exhibition.
The show, which opens to the public Saturday, examines the role of costume design in a century of cinema storytelling, from Charlie Chaplin to the recent remake of “Anna Karenina”, with a journey through hits from Hollywood's Golden Age.
It includes Judy Garland's gingham dress that saw Dorothy home in “The Wizard of Oz”; the green velvet gown that Vivien Leigh wore in “Gone with the Wind”; and the floor-length black dress for Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany's”.
But the exhibition is far more than a fashion show: it highlights a distinctive type of design that guest curator Christopher Frayling said people often failed to understand.
“It's got to work at a particular moment, worn by a particular person, under particular lights, in a particular story, directed by a particular person,” he told AFP.
“At that moment it has to be photographed and the costume has to work.” As Meryl Streep said in an interview featured in the exhibition, next to her costumes from films such as “Mamma Mia!” and “The Iron Lady”, “on every film, the clothes are half the battle in creating the character”.
Also on display are costumes worn by characters such as comic book superhero Batman, the sci-fi icon Darth Vader, boy wizard Harry Potter and Cleopatra.
The “Deconstruction” gallery explains a costume designer's research process, “Dialogue” explores the collaboration between filmmakers, actors and designers and the “Finale” presents famous costumes worn by Hollywood favourites.
“Behind every costume, there is always a designer who began with a written word to create a real person,” Assistant Curator Keith Lodwick said.
One of the designers featured is Edith Head, who collaborated time and time again with Alfred Hitchcock and won eight Oscars in a career spanning more than 50 years with both Paramount and Universal studios.
When she worked on Hitchcock's “The Birds”, Head was instructed to use only green or blue for the costume worn by actress Tippi Hedren. Head opted for an omnipresent pale green suit that could be worn throughout the entire film.
“They hoped the audience would almost forget what she was wearing. But there's an art to that,” Lodwick said.
The show also looks at how costume designers have worked within a constantly evolving technological landscape.
Despite computer-generated imaging and motion-capture used to create characters in a movie like “Avatar”, Lodwick said costumes are still designed for actors to wear, even if the on-screen character is created by an animator.
“The animator has not replaced costume design,” he said.
Gathering together the costumes from more than 60 lenders was like a “treasure hunt” that spanned five years.
And the most prized gem may be one of the original ruby slippers, which will be on public display in Europe for the first time since Dorothy wore them on her quest to find the Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the 1939 classic.
On loan from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington DC for four weeks, the sparkly slippers will be reunited with Dorothy's signature dress for the first time since the film was made.
“That's wonderful magical costume design, living beyond the film,” Lodwick said of the slippers, which have become part of “modern mythology”.
The “Hollywood Costume” exhibition runs until January 27.