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Fashion @ Hollywood Costume Exhibition

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by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (subscribe)
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See the most iconic dresses from Hollywood


Forget Hollywood on the Gold Coast because Hollywood has come to Melbourne. Or at least a display of some of the most significant costumes ever worn on screen. You can see Dorothy's shoes from the Wizard of Oz, Russell Crowe's mini skirt out of Gladiator and Batman's famous top with the S emblazoned across the front.

But as far as I am concerned all this pales into insignificance against what this exhibition really holds and that is a chance to gawk at some of the best female fashions of all time.

These are the costumes that revamped what we wear and how we wear it.

Number one, in my opinion, would have to be Audrey Hepburn's "definitive LBD" out of Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). When it was auctioned for charity, Christie's described it as "a sleeveless, floor-length gown with fitted bodice embellished at the back with distinctive cut-out décolleté, the skirt slightly gathered at the waist and slit to the thigh on one side …"



After this famous film the LBD became an integral part of every woman's wardrobe.

Image from Wikepedia


The designer Givenchy, who was also a personal friend of Audrey Hepburn's, donated the dress to the writer Dominic Lapierre - author of the book City Of Joy and his wife - to help raise funds for their charity which benefits the poor of Calcutta.

It fetched an amazing $807 000. Lapriere is cited in newspaper reports as saying "I'm absolutely dumbfounded to believe that a piece of cloth which belonged to such a magical actress will now enable me to buy bricks and cement to put the most destitute children in the world into schools."

For those who are aware of Hepburn's own amazing social work it is something she would have also wanted as well.

But it wasn't just the dress that became famous but the accessorising. Givenchy matched the fabulous gown with a many -stranded pearl choker, a foot long cigarette holder (only fashionable these days without the cigarette by the way) and oversized sun glasses. Since then accessorising has alway been seen as the personal signature of a glamorous woman.

The dress also changed the way we see fashion icons.

Hepburn was a waif, with no hips or breasts. The dress, which outlined her lean shoulder blades was in direct contrast to Christian Dior's New Look (epitomised by the curvaceous, eye-lash batting Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor) which had been the previous pinch-waisted standard for leading ladies.

That said it will still be interesting to see Marilyn Monroe' iconic dress from Some Like it Hot which is also in the exhibition. The knee-lenglth dress was made from white-and-silver appliqués over a nude coloured chiffon and allegedly worn without a bra. It made it seem as if you could see her bare breasts and the back was slit almost down to her buttocks crack. It caused a scandal at the time. A few years later, she wore a similar dress when she famously sang 'Happy Birthday' to President Kennedy.



And another famous hour-glass, Vivien Leigh, has her dress on display from Gone with the Wind. This is the one that her character Scarlett O"Hara made during the Civil War. In dire poverty she tore down the mansion's green velvet curtains and forged herself an outfit. Which just goes to prove the lengths a woman will go to ensure she looks fashionable even in the direst of times.



Another iconic dress in the Hollywood exhibition is the green silk charmeuse gown worn by Keira Knightley in Atonement. Any female who saw this movie has generally coveted this dress. It is the startling colour, the way it drapes and folds. Jacqueline Durran who designed the dress chose the emerald green colour to symbolise temptation. And for those who have seen the movie you'll remember that his is a highly tempting and seductive green.

Pity Kiera Knightley is so scrawny. They certainly saved on material when they made that one.



But despite her bird-like frame Kiera Knightley certainly gets to set the fashion stakes. Another of her beautiful dresses is also on display. The beautiful burgundy number from Anna Karenina also designed by Jacqueline Durran, who has been nominated for Best Costume Design at the Oscars for her ravishing work on the film.




A survey done for Sky Movies and British InStyle magazine in 2007, the "Best Film Costumes Of All Time", included Keira Knightley's green gown in Atonement at number one. Audrey Hepburn's little black dress in Breakfast At Tiffany's and Vivien Leigh's dresses in Gone with the Wind.

Along with these you'll be able to see a couple of others from their list of favourites including Kate Winslet's blue gown from Titanic and Cate Blanchett's sumptuous gowns in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

But while costumes are always gorgeous to look at it is the fashion that is awe inspiring.

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Why? To see where some fashions started
When: Wednesday 24 April – Sunday 18 Aug 2013, Open daily 10am – 5pm (Thursdays until 9pm) ANZAC Day (Thu 25 Apr) open from 1pm
Where: ACMI, Federation Square, corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets, Melbourne
Cost: Cost: Full $19.50 Concession $15.50 more options can be seen at the website. (2 adults, 3 children) $50 ACMI Member Family $40 Unlimited entry: Full $48 Concession $38 ACMI Member $32
Your Comment
Oh, the envy! I'm as green as Keira Knightley's dress right now :)
by Olga Lee (score: 1|79) 503 days ago
I can't wait to go to this exhibition, I loved the dress worn by Vivien Leigh in Gone with the wind, and my daughter loves Audrey Hepburn so we will make a day if it.
by janef (score: 1|86) 495 days ago
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