This week I got very cultural and went to a museum for the first time in a long time. I know as far as most people are concerned museums are big stuffy places full of ancient relics and old fossils, and no I'm not talking about the bus loads of pensioners on a day out!
I went to the V&A museum, that's the Victoria & Albert to the uninitiated. It is a mammoth building that is literally jaw-dropping in both it's scale and beauty. The reason I was there was to see an exhibition that had been billed as a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity to see some the most iconic costumes in Hollywood history. So, being a huge movie fan I felt I had to go along and have a look.
The exhibition is down a side corridor in the museum through a doorway that is fairly unprepossessing. As a result my expectations were low. I opened the door and walked into a dark, dimly lit space, that almost gave me the same feeling you get walking into a cinema, I really wasn't sure what to expect. And then, out of the darkness a huge cinema screen came to life right in front of me with images from classic films as large as the side of a building. Well known faces like Katherine Hepburn, Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman, James Stewart et al shone out at me making me smile and realise that my apprehension was misguided and that actually I had quite a treat in store. It was, for lack of a better expression, awesome. We were strictly forbidden from taking pictures but I managed to sneak a few for you!
As I walked around the back of the enormous cinema screen it was like stepping behind the magic into, not reality, but a higher level of illusion. The first costume I was greeted by was a gown worn by that goddess of the silver screen, Marlene Dietrich. The first thing I noticed was how tiny it was! Those movie stars look huge on the screen but in reality there costumes (well, the ladies costumes) would suggest that mostly they are small and frail. The thing about Marlene's dress was that it set the tone for the rest of the exhibition in terms of quality.
Every single costume was accompanied by an explanation of the creation of the costume by the costume designer, sometimes from the director and, if we were lucky, from the actor themselves. Some pieces were even accompanied by two tv screens, one either side of the particular costume. One screen playing an interview with the director, the other playing an interview with the designer or lead actor carefully edited so it looked almost like they were having a conversation with each other. Alfred Hitchcock talked about Tippy Hedron's dress from The Birds and Tim Burton chatted about Johnny Depp's leather coat in Sweeney Todd.
There was every kind of film costume you could imagine; period dramas, action movies, Hitchcock thrillers, comic book superheroes, classic black and white. All of them and their accompanying stars represented by costume. Arnie was there in the form of his Terminator costume, Judy Garlands Wizard of Oz dress and Ruby Slippers made an appearance, I even bumped into Darth Vadar, Batman, Indiana Jones and Daniel Craig in his tuxedo. Marilyn Monroe's iconic dress that swirled up around her in that scene, once witnessed, never forgotten was there too, as was Nicole Kidman's sequinned and feathered corset she wore as she swung from that trapeze singing 'Diamonds are a girls best friend' in Moulin Rouge.
There was a magical, almost hypnotic soundtrack playing in the background all the way, made up of snippets of some of the most iconic soundtracks from movies over the years. I really didn't want to leave when I got to the end and as someone who spent every Saturday afternoon as a little boy watching old black and white movies, I got goosebumps on more than one occasion.
I would recommend you don't miss it because one thing is for sure, I loved it so much, that just like Arnie's character The Terminator, I'll be back!