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Costume archaeology at the V&A

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What's your favourite film? Breakfast at Tiffany's? Some Like It Hot? Titanic?

That was the starting point for Deborah Nadoolman Landis, senior curator of the V&A's Hollywood Costume exhibition, when she began to collate some of the most iconic film outfits from the past 100 years.

"It was pure costume archaeology," Landis told Stylist at the Hollywood Costume Gala Dinner last night (16 October). "It was a long, and often difficult journey - I mean, I started collecting garments and phoning people five years ago - but it was also a labour of love. I decided that rather than just making a list of iconic film costumes, I would ask everyone I know what films meant the most to them.

"Different films are important to different people, and it mattered to some more than others, for instance, that Keira Knightley's notoriously fine green dress in Atonement was included in the exhibition."

ABOVE: A replica of Dorothy's red slippers is now on display at the V&A

Landis' treasure hunt for cinema's finest threads took her an impressive five years and it wasn't until last Friday that a replica of Dorothy's famous ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz was installed in the V&A museum.

"We're thrilled that the V&A is honouring costume designers in this way," said Bobi Garland from Western Costumes in the States. "It took a week to craft a perfect cast of Dorothy's red slippers and it's great to see them reunited with the gingham pinafore in an exhibition that's brilliant for the whole costume craft."

ABOVE: Gone With The Wind featured some unforgettable period outfits

Costume designers weren't the only people keen to take a first look at over 100 film costumes last night.

Hollywood stars and directors including Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Burton and Andy Serkis also walked the red carpet before attending an honorary dinner sponsored by Harry Winston.

"I think it's fascinating to see the heritage of one hundred years of costume," said Andy Serkis. "When you first start preparing for a role one of your first ports of call is the costume designer. I worked closely with mine when I needed to physicalise the character of Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and it really helped me to see a screen of a digital avatar so that I could get into the personality of a tricky performance character."

ABOVE: Rose's dress from Titanic appears in the collection

Many of last night's guests struggled to pick one favourite costume in the V&A's lavish exhibition. "Obviously I would have loved to have designed Dorothy's blue and white dress in The Wizard of Oz," said the costume designer behind the Titanic, Deborah L. Scott. "But mainly it's just so gratifying - and so surprising - to be honoured among film's greatest artists and designers. After all of the work that went into Titanic and all the research of period clothing for high and low society, it's lovely to think that people still recognise Rose's dress."

The Hollywood Costume exhibition, sponsored by Harry Winston, opens at the V&A opens this Saturday (20 October) and includes costumes from Batman Returns, The Artist, Gone With the Wind and others. To book tickets visit vam.ac.uk/hollywoodcostume.

Words: Sophie Haslett, Photos: Rex Features

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