Epic Exhibit Of Hollywood Costumes Returns To Los Angeles For Your Viewing Pleasure

By Siran Babayan

A touring exhibit of iconic Hollywood costumes that started in London returns to its roots in Los Angeles at the future Academy Museum of Motion Pictures this week.

The exhibit Hollywood Costume was organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where it appeared in 2012. It arrives back home October 2 at the old Wilshire May Company building and will be on display until March 2.

The exhibit “explores the central role of costume design” with some of the most memorable get-ups in film history. At a media preview, co-curator and designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis (wife of John Landis) and other organizers gave a behind-the-scenes look at the four galleries, which trace a century’s worth of movie costumes dating back to the silent era—including Charlie Chaplin’s suit, derby hat and bamboo cane from The Tramp. Among the collection with over 150 items, the Academy added more than 50 pieces from newer films, including Dallas Buyers Club, The Hunger Games, American Hustle and Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

The exhibit’s entryway displays legendary costume designer Edith Head’s whopping eight Oscars. The famed designer of Hollywood’s Golden Age is known for her work on many films, like All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, Rear Window and Vertigo. She was behind the pale green dress and jacket in which Tippi Hedren was nearly pecked to death in The Birds, and she also outfitted Hedy Lamarr in Samson and Delilah, including a cape made with real peacock feathers handpicked by Cecil B. DeMille on his farm.

The clothes are paired with quotes and video interviews with designers, actors and directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino. Landis (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Animal House, The Blues Brothers) recalls using a Swiss Army knife, steel brush and sandpaper to distress Indiana Jones’ leather jacket, which is displayed with his fedora and whip, as well as a sketch by Steven Spielberg.

Superheroes share space with soldiers, gangsters and boxers. A mannequin of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man is mounted upside down on a wall, while Jamie Foxx’s Django from Django Unchained sits on a horse and Christopher Reeve’s Superman is suspended from the ceiling. Not to be outdone are the leading ladies and sex symbols, including the biggest sex symbol in history, Marilyn Monroe in her famous, white halter dress from The Seven Year Itch.

There’s a section dedicated to royalty, including Marie Antoinette and Queen Elizabeth I, who was played by Bette Davis and Cate Blanchette. The gown is made of Damask silk and Swarovski crystals. (Of course, no actress today can outdo Elizabeth Taylor, whose Cleopatra called for 60 costume changes). There’s also an entire section devoted to Meryl Streep’s clothes from Out of Africa, Mamma Mia!, Doubt and The Iron Lady.

Other contemporary items include Jesse Eisenberg’s hoodie (with the backwards GAP logo) from The Social Network and several cast members’ outfits from Ocean’s Eleven and The Addams Family.

Perhaps the exhibit’s most iconic relic is Judy Garland’s ruby, red slippers—she was a size 5!—from The Wizard of Oz. “The world’s most famous shoes” (white, satin pumps dyed red and covered in more than 2,000 sequins) are displayed alongside Dorothy’s white-and-blue checkered dress for the first time in public. For anyone who’s dressed like her on Halloween, they’re a gasp-inducing treat.

Hollywood Costume opens October 2 and runs through March 2. It will be on display at the Wilshire May Company building at 6067 Wilshire Boulevard, 310-247-3049. Tickets for adults are $20.