Today's post is by our Docent Coordinator, Sarah Repetto. Sarah schedules, coordinates and leads tours of the 20th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition. Sarah's post provides fascinating insight into how visitors interact with the costumes on display.
I was listening to NPR the day before the Academy Awards and heard a movie critic refer to a common thread amongst all of the 2012 nominees for best picture. Each of these films prominently features the idea of nostalgia. From Hugo to The Artist, many of 2011 films looked to the past with earnest longing for days gone by. Coincidentally, as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of the Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition, FIDM Museum curators Kevin Jones and Christina Johnson have incorporated highlights from FIDM Museum collection and Department of Recreation and Parks, City of Los Angeles, Historic Hollywood Collection. This includes items such as Mae West’s dizzyingly high 7-inch tall platform heels and a Spanish matador jacket worn by Rudolph Valentino in the 1922 film Blood and Sand.
"Suit of Lights" jacket worn by Rudolph Valentino in Blood and Sand
Department of Recreation and Parks, City of Los Angeles, FIDM Museum
Photo by Jim Meeks, Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Visitors greet these objects as if they were reunited with a long lost teddy bear from their youth. People literally swoon over relics from Hollywood’s Golden Era, as well as the costumes from this past year’s films. The 20 films from 2011 represented in this exhibition cover a wide range of time periods and genres, but they all embrace a certain degree of escapism that transports us to another time and place. For example, circus performers’ costumes from Water for Elephants transport us to a depression-era circus, and W.E. captures the 1930s glamorous world of haute couture worn by American socialite Wallis Simpson, who became the Duchess of Windsor.
After giving tours of the 20th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition for the past five weeks, I have watched tour goers delight in the opportunity to get up-close and personal with these costumes. It's as if the screen that divides the actors from the audience has melted away and granted visitors access to the films themselves. The exhibition brings the films alive for them. People find that once they have seen the costumes in person they want to see the movies again to observe the role that the costumes have played in them. The details of the clothes, which sometimes become lost in the films, amaze visitors when they see them up close. For instance, one mother and daughter surprised me with a comment about the ribbon embroidery used on Michelle Williams’ dress from My Week with Marilyn. They have been taking ribbon embroidery classes as an effort to preserve this dying art form.
If you have not already had a chance to see the exhibition, the final day is Saturday, April 28. Tours are available Tuesday–Friday at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m., and Saturdays at 9 a.m. Tours are $5 a person or free with FIDM I.D. and reservations are required. To reserve a tour please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also seeking volunteer docents to give tours of this exhibition as well as the upcoming 6th Annual Art of Outstanding Television Costume Design Exhibition, which will run from July 24th-September 22, 2012.