Curator, author and UCLA David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design founder Deborah Nadoolman Landis is adamant that costume design is not fashion. (Costume design is about bringing a story to life, she likes to say, and fashion is about aesthetics and identity).
But the two worlds came together Wednesday for a luncheon celebrating the new "Hollywood Costume" exhibition at the May Co. building, future home of the Academy Museum of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, opening in 2017.
And indeed, the world of film has fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg to thank, in part, for highlighting the value of the May Co. space with her incredibly popular "Journey of a Dress" exhibition there earlier this year.
W Magazine and Bang & Olufsen sponsored the event, which was hosted by Gwyneth Paltrow, Elizabeth Wiatt, Crystal Lourd and Annette Bening. Cameron Diaz, Hilary Swank and academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs also attended, along with costume designers Judianna Makovsky ("The Hunger Games"), Arianne Phillips ("A Single Man"), Albert Wolsky ("Revolutionary Road"), fashion designers Jeremy Scott and Monique Lhuillier, W magazine editor in chief Stefano Tonchi and stylist Rachel Zoe.
Landis spoke passionately of her journey from costume designer ("Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Animal House"), to academic and costume design crusader, during which time she set out to elevate the behind-the-scenes profession too often dismissed (like fashion) as women's work in the public consciousness.
The exhibition, which is on view through March 2, 2015, features more than 150 costumes from the golden era to the present, including pieces from "American Hustle," "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "The Great Gatsby," and the most famous shoes of all-time, Dorothy's ruby red slippers.
The expansive show includes a soaring soundtrack composed especially for it by Julian Scott, and multimedia displays highlighting how costume designers work with directors and actors.
And proving Landis' point, it's not the aesthetics of the costumes that are most striking but the emotional memory of the characters who wore them, from the coat worn by Anton (Javier Bardem) in "No Country for Old Men" (terrifying) to the fur jacket worn by Rayon (Jared Leto) in "Dallas Buyers Club" (heartbreaking).