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Inside the 'Hollywood Costume' Exhibition at ACMI

Home > Melbourne > Fashion | Family | Exhibitions
by Vanessa (subscribe)
WeekendNotes Chief Editor / Chief Writer / PR & Communications.
Event: -
Hollywood Comes to Melbourne
The Dark Knight (2012)TM & DC Comics (s13).
Costume designed by Lindy Hemming.

On Tuesday, 23rd of April, 2013 WeekendNotes was invited to the unveiling of 'Hollywood Costume', the latest blockbuster exhibition hosted by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). This spectacular exhibition, which is part of the 2013 'Melbourne Winter Masterpieces' program, is exclusive to Melbourne, direct from the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where it was met with great critical acclaim and record breaking ticket sales.

On hand to present 'Hollywood Costume' to local media personnel were ACMI director and chief executive, Tony Sweeney, Minister for the Arts, Heidi Victoria and special guest, 'Hollywood Costume' exhibition curator, Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis, an Academy Award nominated film and theatre costume designer and historian.

Landis has designed several iconic costumes throughout her prolific career; her collaborations with director (and husband) John Landis include Animal House (1978), The Blues Brothers (1980), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Trading Places (1983), Michael Jackson's Thriller (1983) and Coming to America (1988), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. Landis also collaborated with Steven Spielberg on 1941 (1979) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

Courtesy Universal Studios Licensing LLC. John Belushi TM is a trademark of Mrs. Judith Belushi Pisano, licensed by CMG. Costume designed by Deborah Nadoolman.
Landis' great interest in the history of costume design in film and theatre has also resulted in her writing and editing several celebrated books, including Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design (Harper Collins, 2007), Screencraft/Costume Design (Focal Press, 2003) and 50 Costumes/50 Designers: Concept to Character (University of California Press. 2004) and she also regularly lectures at the University of Southern California, the AFI Conservatory and the University of the Arts London.

'Hollywood Costume' is essentially the culmination of Landis' work as costume designer and historian and as an exhibition it presents the often hidden collaborative process of costume design to the public through a variety of artefacts and memorabilia. In addition to sourcing 100 costumes by over 50 designers, there are hundreds of unseen pre-production sketches, scripts and costume fitting photographs on display. It took five long years to put this exhibition together and Landis not only sourced costumes from 50 lenders worldwide, including London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, New York, Austin, Los Angeles, San Diego and South Korea, she also collaborated with Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep, who each have a great presence in the exhibition through enlightening multimedia displays.

It certainly is the first exhibition to be entirely focused on the history of costume design in film and presents nearly a century of filmmaking; from Louise Glaum's spider web dress in Sex (1920) to Keira Knightley's Academy Award winning costumes in Anna Karenina (2012).

As patrons enter ACMI's Gallery 1, they will be met with a large screen projection of a montage featuring several iconic film characters adjusting their costumes; it is a great introduction.

Patrons will then make their way to the main gallery space, and find it made up to look like a soundstage, with lighting rigs and AV tables which replicate a dressmaker's table. Plus there is the unique addition of an original emotive score to accompany one's perusal of the many displays.

The exhibition itself is divided into three distinct areas;

Scene I: What is Costume Design?, which introduces the the role of costume deign in film and its visual and narrative importance; key exhibits in this section include case studies of The Last Emperor (1987), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Fight Club (1999) Addams Family Vales (1993), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Barry Lydon (1975) and Marie Antoinette (2006).

Scene II: Creative Contexts examines costume design as a collaborative process between filmmakers, actors and costume designers. Key case studies in this section include The Birds (1963), Gangs of New York (2002), Closer (2004) and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). These particular exhibits include interviews with the respective directors and costume designers.

Two other highlights of this section include the displays dedicated to Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. Here you will find some of their iconic character costumes; for De Niro there are costumes from Frankenstein (1994), Raging Bull (199), The King of Comedy (1983), Taxi Driver (1976) and Casio (1995); for Streep there are costumes from Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Out of Africa (1985), Mamma Mia (2008) and The Iron Lady (2011). These exhibits are also aided by interviews with De Niro and Streep respectively.

Scene III: The Finale opens up to the main gallery space and presents a tableau of some of the most celebrated film characters of all time. Divided into two sections; 'Gunsligers & Blades' and 'Virgins & Vixens', this display showcases some real gems; Dick Tracy's trench coat (Dick Tracey 1990), the Kill Bill jumpsuit (Kill Bill:Vol. 1 2003), Austin Power's velvet suit (Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery 1997), James Bond's tux (Casino Royale 2006), The Blues Brothers' distinctive shades and suits (The Blues Brothers 1998), Dorothy Gale's pinafore dress (The Wizard of Oz 1939), Holly Golightly's floor length black dress (Breakfast at Tiffany's 1961), Cecilia Tallis' emerald silk evening gown (Atonement 2007), Dracula's blood red cape (Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), The Girl's ivory cocktail dress (The Seven Year Itch (1955) and John McClane's bloodied vest and torn trousers (Die Hard 1988).

To aid patrons, many of the costume exhibits feature a display panel with the face of the respective actor - it is novel touch, as some of the character's faces turn direction. And don't forget to look up, as there are some recognisable heroes overlooking the exhibition!

There are 100 displays in total, including 19 Academy Award winning costumes. There will also be some new additions come Friday, May 24th, 2013; three costumes from the The Great Gatsby, designed by Academy Award winner Catherine Martin. Martin, however isn't the only Australian connection; costumes from Bright Star (2009), by four time Academy Award nominee, Janet Patterson, have been added to the collection exclusively for Melbourne also. Within the main collection, Australian highlights include Marilyn Monroe's Some Like It Hot (1959) sequinned dress, designed by Orry-Kelly, Keanu Reeve's floor length black coat for the The Matrix (1999), designed by Kim Barrett and Nicole Kidman's sequinned headpiece and leotard from Moulin Rouge (2001), designed by Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie.

For those interested in film or fashion, 'Hollywood Costume' is simply a must. Landis and her dedicated team have created an exquisite experience which allows one to truly get up and personal with the design process. Many of these costumes are part of modern popular culture and this is a rare chance to appreciate the true article. To make the most of this experience, I would suggest visiting the exhibition during off-peak hours, so one can spend time viewing the assorted multimedia material accompanying selected exhibits. Also, on your way out, make sure to pop into the ACMI Store which is selling the comprehensive exhibition program for $50 and a range of themed products; including Ruby slippers!

Also, take note of the Hollywood Costume Events Program, featuring film programs, workshops, panels and late night entertainment events running until August; for further details, click here.

Open daily 10am - 5pm (Thursdays until 9pm)
ANZAC Day (Thu 25 Apr) open from 1pm

Ticket prices are as follow;
Full $19.50 / Concession $15.50 / ACMI Member $13.50 / Child (4-15 years) $10 / Family (2 adults, 3 children) $50 / ACMI Member Family $40

For more information on 'Hollywood Costume' please visit the ACMI website.
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When: Wednesday 24 April - Sunday 18 Aug 2013
Where: Federation Square, Flinders St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: Full $19.50 / Concession $15.50 / ACMI Member $13.50 / Child (4-15 years) $10
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