Hollywood Costume ACMI Federation Square

If you like fashion, design, movies or movie stars, do not miss ACMI’s Winter Masterpiece exhibition this year, Hollywood Costume which explores the role costume design plays in cinema.

It comes to Melbourne via the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and it’s one of the best curated exhibitions I’ve visited recently. It doesn’t just consist of a few garments from B-grade movies you’ve never heard of – it’s a true blockbuster show, with iconic costumes from movies from the 30s right to present day. Set aside at least 2 hours to see everything.

While the clothing is on mannequins the exhibition doesn’t feel too static as in some cases the heads of the mannequins have been replaced with screen shots (sometimes gently moving) of the actor who played the character. This is genius, as some of the most famous movie characters are difficult to divorce from a specific actor – so Dorothy’s blue gingham pinafore is topped by Judy Garland’s smile and Givenchy’s LBD for Breakfast at Tiffany’s opening scene has Audrey Hepburn’s face with it.

The captions that accompany each garment often highlight details that you probably never noticed when you watched the film. Nothing that appears on screen is casual or incidental. For instance there’s a reason that the capes in the Harry Potter films are lined with bright colours – to bring life to the Great Hall scenes when all the students sit in black together.

Don’t worry it’s not just all pretty frocks – there’s plenty to impress the menfolk too, such as Bruce Willis’ outfit from Die Hard, Robert de Niro’s boxing attire from Raging Bull and a Brioni suit worn by Daniel Craig as James Bond. Look upwards so you don’t miss the superhero costumes hanging from the ceiling and the walls – Superman, Batman, Spiderman and Catwoman. Did you know that they made 20 Superman suits of different weights depending on whether the cape was flying or waving in the breeze?

Interspersed with the mannequins are looping interviews with directors, actors and costume designers talking about the importance of costume to building a character and a story. It’s well worth watching these short videos to gain a deeper experience of the works you’re seeing, especially the ones with Meryl Streep and Robert de Niro.

Given the amount of reading/listening that’s required to appreciate the exhibition fully, I don’t recommend bringing young children to the exhibition who don’t have the patience to watch the videos (as you won’t have a chance to watch them either) and definitely don’t bring kids who need a pram, as the crowds are large and you will just annoy others if you block the walkways and prevent people from getting close enough to view the captions and screens. Also note that there are no seats in the exhibition so wear comfortable shoes.

I predict that Hollywood Costume will be very popular so if you can to attend on a weekday rather than weekend and arrive early in the morning. When you enter, begin from the end of the exhibition and work towards the start to avoid the masses of people jostling their way from start to finish. You won’t be disadvantaged by going against the flow as it’s not essential you view the exhibition sequentially.

I also recommend buying your tickets in advance to save lining up, note that entrances are timed every hour, on the hour.

Finally there are loads of events that are being held in conjunction with Hollywood Costume – check out the list of movies, talks, workshops and entertainments here. I recommend taking a free curator tour as ACMI guides take you through exhibition.

Hollywood Costume, ACMI, Federation Square

Wednesday 24 April – Sunday 18 Aug 2013
Open daily 10am – 5pm (Thursdays until 9pm)
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
Unlimited entry*: Full $48 Concession $38 ACMI Member $32
School and group bookings also available