100 years of movie costumes to take a bow at Phoenix museum


Dorothy’s pinafore and ruby red slippers, Darth Vader’s helmet and cape and Austin Powers’ blue velvet suit are just a few of the treasures on display in “Hollywood Costume,” the monumental exhibition celebrating 100 years of costume in the movies opening Wednesday at the Phoenix Art Museum, its only stop in the West.

Originally organized by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where it had a sold-out run in 2012-13, the exhibition is curated by Deborah Landis, the David C. Copley chair and the director of the David C. Copley Center of Costume Design at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television. In addition to more than 100 costumes, the multimedia display includes research bibles, props and film clips that offer insight into the costume design process, as well as recorded interviews with Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro and others.

The exhibition, scheduled to be open through July 6, comes to Phoenix in part because of a friendship between Landis and Dennita Sewell, curator of fashion design at the museum.


“The reason the movies are so important is because we have relationships with the characters,” Sewell said. “It’s the costume designers working with the script, actors and director who come up with that.”

As a companion to the show, the curators organized a second exhibition, “Hollywood Red Carpet,” featuring Oscar gowns worn by nominees for lead actress and supporting actress, alongside costumes worn on-screen in the roles for which they were nominated. Side-by-side panels offer context about the fashion designers’ inspirations versus those of the costume designers.

“I wanted to show the growing impact of the red carpet,” said Sewell of that show, which is scheduled to remain open through July 27. “And the skill of the costume designer, actress and fashion designer working together.”