We’re Not In Kansas Anymore…

Hollywood Costume: The Bride wore Red - Worn By Joan Crawford.

Yesterday I spent a glorious few hours at The Victoria and Albert Museum.  My husband had cleverly taken the hint of a year’s membership as a Christmas gift, which means you don’t queue and can see any exhibition for free, as many times as you like, whenever you like.  Genius!  I loathe queuing…

I went to the Phyllis Dalton retrospective last month with friends, having been spellbound by her costumes for Dr Zhivago since I was a child, it was heaven to hear Omar Sharif scold her for only working with him twice.  ‘What have you done to me Phyllis?  You ruined me.’  Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who curated this exhibition, hosted the evening and yet again I pondered the dilemma of how I shuffle stage left from my career as a fashion stylist and wake up a film costume designer.

The exhibition is very popular, it was pretty hectic in the darkened rooms, and given this membership, I shall definitely utilise it to go at another non-holiday time.  The dialogues between directors and fashion designers were fascinating: rather like those between photographer and stylist, really delving into the translation of character through costume.  There were so many of the bravest and the best designs displayed, but the one which stuck out the most for me was this gorgeous bias cut red sequinned dress and cape, which Joan Crawford wore in The Bride Wore Red, a film I am now desperate to see.

Joan Crawford: The Bride Wore Red.
Artwork for The Bride Wore Red.

The reason I think this costume is so utterly successful, is from it’s cut, colour and cloth, you get an entirely encapsulated sense of what the film is about, as well as era.  There is something both radical and sensual and brilliantly of it’s time, as well as urging you to believe in the glamour of cinema.  It is not a million miles away from the Tom Ford white dress and cape, albeit with a longer cape, which Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the Oscars 2012, which has garnered her best dressed listings.  Both are well-versed in the power of costume, perhaps Tom Ford even used this look as a silhouette reference.

Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars 2012 in Tom Ford.

Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro are also interviewed: my favourite quote was when Meryl Streep said that when playing Mrs Thatcher for The Iron Lady, it was vital for her character development that she learnt what Mrs T carried in her handbag.  ‘I needed to know, and now I do.’

The Iron Lady - Meryl Streep - Hollywood Costume Exhibition.
Mrs Thatcher With Her Trusty Handbag Outside Number 10.