RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life

The magic of movie costuming

13 Comments

may company building

When we go to see a Hollywood movie we are asked to suspend our disbelief in what is happening before our eyes. Superman flying through the air. The Queen walking her corgis. Dorothy on the yellow brick road. Would Christopher Reeve be the Man of Steel without his cape? Would Helen Mirren be Elizabeth II without her tweeds? Would Judy Garland make it back to Kansas if she didn’t have her ruby slippers? Without the right costumes, the movies we see wouldn’t be at all realistic.

may company building

The Hollywood Costume exhibit presented by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences displays 150 costumes from memorable movies through the decades. The Los Angeles version adds about 50 costumes to the original V&A exhibit.

may company building

The 1939 streamline May Company building on the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire has been chosen as the future home of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, scheduled to open in 2017. It was annexed by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) some years ago when it faced the wrecking ball. This will probably be the last exhibit shown here before the renovation. I’ll be writing a full article later on about this building.

may company building

This post is about the exhibit itself. No photography whatsoever was allowed inside. I can always understand not allowing flash photography as it is both annoying and destructive. I don’t understand why non-flash photography was not allowed. But so be it.

hollywood costume

I used a few images from the press photos page published on the exhibit website. Not as good as the photos I would have taken (!), but what can I do? They give you the general idea.

Above you see two of my favorites, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and James Bond (Daniel Craig). The faces were displayed on 2D monitors and every now and again they would blink or change facial expressions so it gave some life to the 3D mannequins.

hollywood costume

The multimedia presentation was very clever and I liked the exhibit a lot more than I thought I would. I went with several friends and I was the last one out as I really enjoyed reading all the descriptions and studying all the details. Look up or you’ll miss Chris Reeve!

I can’t describe the many ways that interactive multimedia was used, and as I couldn’t take photos of it, you will have to see the exhibit yourself. I was impressed with the creativity.

hollywood costume

There was a whole section on Meryl Streep and her various and sundry roles. She was on a discussion panel where several versions of her were talking to each other. Other displays showed actors and directors discussing their movies as if they were right there having a conversation.

hollywood costume

We were marveling at the intricate hand sewn decorations on these gowns. And also wondering how the heck did women move around in them back in the original time period.

hollywood costume

So many great films were represented. One point I picked up on is that modern films can be harder to design costumes for than period pieces. We have certain expectations of what kind of styles people wear today. It’s easier to be a little bit off in a period piece because we are not as conscious of who should be wearing what outfit two hundred years ago.

You can view a PDF of more photos by clicking here.

Also a couple of links to reviews of the exhibit:
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-hollywood-costume-academy-museum-exhibit-20140928-story.html#page=1
http://laist.com/2014/09/30/co-organized_by_the_victoria_and.php#photo-1

It took me a couple of hours to get through everything. I mentioned to my friend that the 150 costumes seemed more like 500. The exhibit is on through March 2, 2015. It is definitely worth seeing.

All photos and content copyright roslyn m wilkins except where otherwise noted. Please feel free to pass along this post via email or social media, but if you wish to use some of our images or text outside of the context of this blog, either give full credit to myself and link to One Good Life in Los Angeles, or contact us for proper usage. Thanks!

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Author: RMW

I am an explorer and creative person. I've had many jobs, careers and interests... everything in life and the universe fascinates me. Born in Brighton, England, I've lived my entire adult life in Los Angeles, California. A few years ago I rediscovered photography which is a great excuse to get outside and look. I'm also in the process of re-writing some of my unpublished short stories and possibly a novel. .

13 thoughts on “The magic of movie costuming

  1. OMG Roslyn, why haven’t I known about you sooner!?? Your latest writings about the May Company/Hollywood Costuming have me ready to get in a car and go there right now! I could kick myself for not stopping by Wednesday after the Meeting. But I am making a time frame right now to get to the Museum very soon. Thank you for the info, the pictures, the comments……….. and keep them coming. Awesome!!

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    • Thanks Gladys. A week or so ago I found a bunch of comments hidden away that I never saw before for various posts… I am sorry I didn’t respond before…. I’m now trying to approve and track down all those comments.

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  2. This looks like a wonderful exhibit!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great exhibit! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wilshire and Fairfax. Cool corner.

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  5. What a grand tour! Love it. Thanks, Roslyn!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your lead-off building photo truly grabbed me, Ros. That surely looks like a stack of gold coins at the corner of the old LA building! Great work.

    I think the exhibit officials are stuck on the old concept that amateurs with cameras posting bad pictures would hurt their image. That’s very old-school thinking. And insulting to somebody such as you, who would have done a superb job without flash and drawn more people into their halls than the stock photos you culled from their press site collection.

    Ah, well. They lose. You lose. I lose. I won’t be able to get out to LA to see the interesting exhibit with my own two eyes. I wish I could have seen it through your lens. I hope they see your striking outside-of-the-building-work and become aware of what they let get away. I enjoyed it through your words, at least. Thank you, my LA correspondent.

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    • Supposedly it isn’t gold coins, but when I create the post about the building I will discuss that… as you and I and everybody else thinks that is what it is…

      I’ve thought of every possible reason why they wouldn’t want photos taken… but can’t come up with an answer… I mean it isn’t like the whole world hasn’t already seen the costumes at the movies… But it is what it is…. and moving on…..

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      • From my 21 years of concert reviewing, with artists protecting their visual images like a hawk forever annoying my partner photographers with restricting rule and stipulations, my speculation is that the reason is their need to feel like they are the master of their own visual promotion tnis way, Ros.

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    • Mark, I have been following (with great consternation) some of the quarrels between musicians and photographers. I remember the good old days when we had box seats three inches from the stage at the Hollywood Bowl and I got some good shots with my telephoto lenses. Those days are long gone. In some cases I do understand why photography is not allowed and others I just plain don’t. Wherever I go I always ask if photography is allowed and I make a point of being grateful when it is!

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      • While I was still working for the big daily, one of the new wrinkles was for some of the musicians was to force media photograhers to sign contracts saying the artists had the rights to all concert photos, not the newspapers or online sites. Of course, our photographers had the righteous orders not to sign that, so we’d be pictureless for those concerts. It was infuriating, Ros.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Looks like a wonderful exhibition!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, this is impressive! Some fashions on certain movie could stay on my mind because they are so unique..Thanks so much for sharing this exhibition 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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