Vintage style: Hollywood Costumes at the V&A

This most excellent exhibition has now closed at the V&A – L and I went back in mid January when there was so much snow around the public transport system collapsed (as always) and we got stranded on the journey home in various places, taking us 5 hours instead of 1. But we agreed that we’d have done it all again to see this exhibition – it was honestly that good!
Now I realise we are all busy people and some of you probably merely skim my musings to get to the pictures (if I were you, that’s what I’d do anyway), so this is largely going to be my favourite costumes… although here’s an obligatory shot of me with Audrey. I couldn’t pose standing forwards, you understand, as the contrast in our beauty would be too great (and I’m not for a minute suggesting I would outshine Audrey!).


I’m going backwards, but one of the last outfits you see in the exhibition is one of the most famous – and somehow, even though I was largely going to this to see the famous Some Like it Hot dress, I had missed the fact the famous white dress was even in the show!

L and I really liked the screens propped on top of the costumes, it was very clever how they’d picked shots that worked so well with the set-up. But what we really, really loved, was how all of the mannequins had seemingly been modelled on the exact sizes of the people themselves. One of the most shocking things I learned, and I say this as a keen Marilyn fan, is just how curvy her proportions really were. And no, I don’t mean fat. If you can’t gauge the size of her waist from that photo, let me tell you it was much smaller than mine and at a UK size 8-10 that’s not exactly large. And her bust! Dear me, the contrast between the two is like nothing I’ve ever seen on an actual human being today. So this was my favourite costume, not because I love the dress (if anything, it’s one of my least favourites that Marilyn wore), but because of being able to picture her dimensions so clearly like that. Amazing.
Now, this was L’s favourite costume. Keira Knightley’s gorgeous green dress from Atonement. This was just so stunning in real life – surrounded by dresses covered in sequins, like the one behind it, I think it was more eye-catching than many of them. So elegant and so simple, we were fascinated by the detailing around the neck, which you can’t really see here or in the film, it’s that subtle. And the folds and the colour and the material! So beautiful.
Back to Marilyn, though, and the costume I’d gone to the exhibition to see… the nude dress from Some Like it Hot. This is how it should have looked…
… However when we saw it they’d covered the top of the dress – the exciting bit with the see-through ¬†mesh – with a big white fur stole. Not impressed! And no idea why they did that. Other than to ruin my day. Thank heavens for the unexpected Seven Year Itch dress at the end.
Here’s hoping for more exhibitions like this – thanks, V&A.
CiCi x

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