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A century of Hollywood costumes on display in London exhibition

A suit worn by US actress Meryl Streep in the 2011 film The Iron Lady is displayed at the Hollywood Costume exhibition in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Photo: AFP

A suit worn by US actress Meryl Streep in the 2011 film The Iron Lady is displayed at the Hollywood Costume exhibition in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Photo: AFP

From Charlie Chaplin to Marilyn Monroe, more than 130 silver-screen costumes covering a century of cinema are on display at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in an exhibition that celebrates the role of the designer in film-making.

Hollywood Costume, which runs until January 27, offers a chance to see many of the most famous movie get-ups on public display for the first time.

“This is the first exhibition on this scope and scale”, Keith Lodwick, one of the exhibition’s curators told Reuters in an interview at the show’s preview.

“We really wanted to raise the profile of the costume designer”, he said, explaining that their job “is not all about the glamorous clothing”.

Instead, the costume “has to fit exactly with the concept of what the director would like to do”.

The exhibition presents some of the most memorable syntheses of costume and character, including Audrey Hepburn’s black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, designed by Hubert De Givenchy, and Charlie Chaplin’s cane and bowler hat which he designed himself.

“Some costumes live beyond the film. Someone may not have seen the Charlie Chaplin film, but they would probably recognise his silhouette. That’s costume design,” Lodwick said.

The exhibition is a film buff’s dream. One journalist stood frozen to the spot in front of Indiana Jones’s muddy leather outfit from Raiders of the Lost Ark costume, staring at the action hero’s whip in mid-crack. “Don’t mind me, I’m having a moment,”she said.

The result of five years of sourcing and negotiating, the exhibition consists of three rooms which trace the creative process involved in costume design.

The third room, named simply “the finale”, is a spectacle of Hollywood heroes and femme fatales, from Batman to Harry Potter through Marilyn Monroe’s blowing dress and Uma Thurman’s yellow Kill Bill tracksuit.

“It’s just meant to blow your mind,” Deborah Landis, the guest curator and designer of Indiana Jones’ costume, told reporters.

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