Saturday, 27 October 2012



If only I'd given in to that impulse to retrace my steps for another look at Scarlett's green curtains ... I'd have run into Darlene who arrived at the V&A's Hollywood Costume exhibition about 20 minutes before I left.

But we only discovered that after we both got home.

Missing each other would have been a tragedy except that we have a date to meet tomorrow morning.

We haven't had a chance to exchange impressions of the exhibition yet ... but I LOVED it.

The first thing I saw as I walked in was Scarlett's green velvet dress from Gone With the Wind. I felt a bit sad because it was terribly badly lit and, try as I might, there was no way I could make out the chicken claw garnish on Scarlett's hat. Remember the scene when Uncle Peter chases the rooster for Christmas dinner? It's the last chicken in Atlanta that wasn't stolen by Yankee troops - and after they ate it, Scarlett used its feathers and one of its black, scaly claws to trim her hat.

It was the minuscule detail that you miss on the screen that had me gasping and sighing and appreciating how every costume writes its character's backstory.  The patches and darns on Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp costume, his trousers cobbled together with white thread. (How my dad would have loved to have seen that.)
The tawdry green bunny rabbit brooch that Kim Novak wore in Vertigo ... I'd never noticed it before but it was so exactly right.
Vanessa Redgrave's Guinevere wedding dress from Camelot. Terrible film ... but who would have guessed that her gown was crocheted spiders' webs stitched with tiny pearls and hundreds of pumpkin seeds?
There was something very sad about the stained cowboy boots from Brokeback Mountain. They seemed to speak volumes.
And Eliza Doolittle's skimpy green coat and black mittens. (How I wish that they'd had her black and white Ascot gown. It sold for $3.7 million last year to a very private collector and the V&A couldn't track it down.)
I gasped at Meryl Streep's French Lieutenant's Woman's cloak which I hadn't been expecting and ooohed over some serious glamour and sequins from the golden era of Hollywood. Like Hedy Lamarr's
peacock feather cape from Samson and Delilah, collected from the peacocks at Cecil B DeMille's ranch.
And I giggled at the provocative costume for a risqué 1920 silent movie called Sex - because a distant cousin on my mother's side played a part in bringing in the Hays Code.
He'd be spinning in his grave if he could see Keira Knightley's slinky green dress from Atonement.
But I was astonished at the laser-cut detail on the décolletage... impossible to see it on screen, but the idea was to make her seem nearly naked.
I think it worked.

7 comments:

Darlene said...

It was a great exhibit, the people who put it together got the mix just right. Poor Roman, now not only is he going to have to listen to me say 'I've been there' when we watch something with a London landscape but 'I've seen those clothes!' too.

It was so nice to spend time with you on Saturday, Mary! Next time we'll see about getting on to that rooftop garden. And Greenwich was brilliant today...and no rain!

mary said...

Darlene, it was lovely to see you again. I'm glad you enjoyed Greenwich, I kept thinking what a grey and gloomy day it was!
As for those Canadian chocolates ... they are so, so addictive! Salt and sugar together ... what a hit! I think it's probably just as well you can't buy them here!

Magic Bean said...

Am desperate to see this exhibition, even more so after reading this post. Thank you, Ax

mary said...

It's well worth a special trip, Magic Bean. You'll love it, I promise.

lizzie said...

The pink background and the blue print on your blog is so hard on the eyes.

Sue said...

Oh, it sounds wonderful. There was a stage and screen costume exhibition at Worcester Cathedral a few years ago -lots of Jane Austen dresses, some of Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth dresses and some RSC stuff -it was gorgeous.

mary said...

Sorry, Lizzie. Does anyone else have trouble?

Sue, you'd love it. There's whole section of Elizabeth I gowns: Bette Davis, Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench. And you can get quite close up for a good look.