"Hollywood Costume" Puts on Blockbuster Show at Phoenix Art Museum

Categories: Fashion, Reviews

Off Madison Ave
Costumes worn by Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale in American Hustle (2013).

Imagine Darth Vader without his gleaming black helmet and dark robes. The effect would be considerably less intimidating and fearsome.

And what would Dorothy be without her ruby red slippers? Definitely not as dazzling.

Though audiences may not always realize it, costumes play an integral role in the success of a film.

See also: Madeleine Albright's Pin Collection Doesn't Belong at Phoenix Art Museum

"Hollywood Costume," Phoenix Art Museum's biggest exhibit to date, according to museum director Jim Ballinger, explores the contribution of costumes throughout the history of cinema. The exhibit, which originated at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is in Phoenix for the second and final stop of its American tour.

Curated by Hollywood costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, along with Phoenix Art Museum's fashion design curator Dennita Sewell, the show brings together a collection of more than 100 costumes spanning almost a century of films.

Landis remarked that the exhibit is not about the clothes, but the power of costume in films.

"This is an exhibition that has the wrong name," she says. "I hope that when you leave the galleries you'll have that 'ah ha' moment where you'll understand that I was driven to design this exhibition because costume designers -- our world and our contribution to every single story -- has not been recognized."

The exhibition begins with a dimly lit movie theater entrance where a montage of famous films splashes across a big screen. Around the corner, Spider-Man clings to a wall, and we get our first round of costumes.

Beyoncé's glittering dress from Dreamgirls, finely tailored suits from Ocean's Eleven, and Jeff Bridges' ratty robe from The Big Lebowski are among the first costumes to greet you. Each costume features a descriptive object label with quotes from the designers who worked on the film.

"The scale of the skirt at the hem actually defines her space; you physically cannot get close to the queen," reads the label for the queen's dress, designed by Alexandra Byrne, from Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

By incorporating education through these anecdotes and film clips, the show strives to captivate all ages.

Location Info


Phoenix Art Museum

1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

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Andrea Engelsberg
Andrea Engelsberg

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in reference to Dorothy's costume... I believe that just the blouse was reproduction and the pinafore and shoes were original.

Zach Davis
Zach Davis

I'm hoping to go to this for my birthday in June!

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