Fashion In Film

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Fashion in Film Exhibit

Featuring Period Movie Costumes

- By Judy Mitchell

On view at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware until Jan 07, 2007 is an exhibit  of 36 costumes from period set movies. The costumes and accessories were made by Cosprop Ltd often utilizing authentic cut and construction and even vintage fabric and/or lace inserts.

It is broken into 3 area: Section one shows costumes about historical figures such as Elizabeth I, Louis XIV, Thomas Jefferson, and covers the era from the 16th to 19th centuries. Also included in this section are costumes from Ever After, Dangerous Liaisons, and movies based on Jane Austen's books.

Section two displays costumes from classic literary movies  set from 1827 to the late 19th century - such as Eugene Onegin,  Portrait of a Lady, The Golden Bowl and more.

Section three progresses into the 20th century with costumes such as Titanic, Evita, Room With a View, Gosford Park and others.

If you can't make it to this tour, you can get a taste of it at  where they show each outfit and even give an audio clip, presumably from the ipod tour (we preferred to kibitz amongst ourselves, so I don't really know what the ipod said!).

(Note, in the pictures displayed below.  The standard image behind the thumbnail  is already a good size,  only click on the "high rez pic" link if you're on a high-speed hookup and ready for a half meg image!)

The costumes are wonderfully displayed on risers, with most of them viewable all the way around. Movie posters decorated the walls around the room.

In addition to the exquisite costumes, there is also a hands-on section with some samples of fabrics for fondling (donated to the Winterthur exhibit by G-street Fabrics)  and table with five costume designs of the exhibit that you can take home and color – they offer a number templates to rub them on to create 'texture' for the fabrics. Just a bit of fun!

Some of the costumes just blew me away with their beauty; some, I'm afraid did not (no reflex ion on the craftsmanship, just some did not impress me).

It was fascinating to see how the “Just Breathe” dress from Ever After was box-pleated from the empire waistline with 3 panels alternating gauze, metallic silk, gauze creating an ethereal effect. BTW, the metallic silk used is pretty much the same type of fabric we've seen from Thai Silks in the silk lurex fabric. The hem, however is pad stitched. While it looks lovely white onscreen, it's actually a silver-ivory shade which makes sense since white doesn't show on film well.  For those wondering how this costume fits into an exhibit of period movies, it is set in roughly 1510-1518 time frame, they just added wings to the lovely dress.

Swoozie Kurtz's red dress from Dangerous Liaisons (circa 1760) is one of the main centerpieces of the exhibit, to judge from it's image everywhere. It is a lovely, rich dress, with all the ruching and the ribbon rosettes.

As Cosprop likes to use period techniques in their construction, it was nice to see that the edges of the front edge ruffle and the hem of the Dangerous Liaisons dresses were simply pinked and left that way. Just how it would have been done.

Dangerous Liaisons


(high rez pic)

Note the rosettes on the stomacher hide the opening to the dress.

Note the layers of lace with the rosettes gives a read of embroidery. A couple rows of small trim looks like large trim.

Jewels on gold ribbon.  Yet from the distance the whole thing appears to be golden

It's a shame the dress from Elizabeth wasn't quite as period accurate, but reports have said that the director wanted more of a 'feel' than strict accuracy. It shows, in the netting of the lower sleeve and the bustle (luckily not a fancy tucked one, but not a bum roll either) off the back.

The wedding outfits from Sense & Sensibility (1800) were just lovely – but then I'm a sucker for bright red and green. It was fascinating that they used straw or raffia trim on the standing collar and edging the pelisse. It really gave a good read for antique, burnished gold.

Also interesting, and very period, was noticing that Miss Bingley's  orange dress from Pride & Prejudice (1812-15) was made from a sari. It was very popular to use Indian fabrics and such for Regency clothes.

Ralph Fiennes' costume for Evgeny from Onegin (1830s) is a study in texturing with black (ok, the shirt is white and the vest is blue). With the black wool, velvet lapels and buttons, a black tailcoat and trousers it was interesting to see how it was made distinctive rather than a dark mass. One thing to pay attention to is the gorgeous quilting on the black embroidered silk lining of the overcoat.


Evgeny's 1830's Suit

Detail of vest and buttons

Lee Remick's dress from the Young Europeans (1855) also had some interesting aspects to it. An 1855 dress, it is basically a white dress with a layer of black lace fabric on top giving it dimension and texture. Apparently something must have happened to the original netting on the neck since it can be seen in the accompanying poster but the current dress has been slightly reworked for a white lace edge.

Young Europeans

(high rez pic)

Lace detailing, enhanced.  Shear netting over a satin.

I think my favorite might be Nicole Kidman's “Two-piece evening dress of gold lamé overlaid with black and gold net.“ from Portrait of a Lady (1876-79). While most of the pictures don't captivate me that much, the actual dress with it's striped black and gold silk and the sequined train was just stunning. The layers of netting just gave this piece such a strong texture and presence. Even the lace appliqué along the hem has the paisley points cut out along the edge.

Portrait of a Lady

(high rez pic)

Flat metal sequins and lots of seed beads both solid on the neck trim and for dangles. Applied on netting. Note how the fancy embroidery is actually cut from something else and tacked onto the modern black netting.

Then there was Elizabeth Taylor's outfit from Toscanini (1880s). Well, I understand opera style is supposed to be gaudy. It was.  Seriously, this dress actually has inserts of purple dyed fake tiger fur! Just amazing. To say it was “heavily encrusted with beads, sequins, and large brightly colored stones in gold mounts” I guess about sums it up.

The evening dress from The Golden Bowl (1900), is actually more of a bisque color than the white it appears. This dress is apparently a repop: an original dress was in too bad condition – the silk was fracturing apart. But the lace inserts were reused to make a restored version. Very nice seeing the vintage lace detailing it. The black and silver evening dress also used vintage lace inserts.

The Golden Bowl

(high rez pic)

Velvet shaped belt with rhinestone buttons.  Note how heavy the lace appliqués are here. Note the modern machine pin tucks used on the skirt.  Also includes cutwork.

While the Titanic (1912) orange, chiffon dress, appears elegant in it's simplicity, (not the Jump Dress) has lovely glass beads edging the sleeve and neck, and an amazing beaded bodice of silver and orange concentric circles. That is, the bodice is beaded with orange circles except for a sort of wide diamond shape in silver beads, and the orange straps faded to silver over the shoulders.

Melanie Griffith's dinner dress from Shining Through (1950s) was just stunning. the silk georgette and gauze over crepe de chine gave a lovely soft feel. This dress is also hand painted with flowers that vine over the bodice, around the waist and cascade down the left skirt front; and then it's studded with diamonte beads and sequins.  Just lovely.

Shining Through

(high rez pic)

Note this is not embroidery, but painted-on flowers studded with glittering bits that give it a 3-d look.  This close-up shows all the paint color details

Evita's 'New Look' dress (1950s) is shockingly pink. Deep “pepto” pink. Did I mention it's pink? The dress looked interesting, but was almost completely hidden by the voluminous overcoat.

The Little Maharaja's costume from Indiana Jones (and apparently reused in another movie) was an interesting study in richness. Ok,  it's pink – but not nearly as pink as the Evita dress. This is covered in gold bullion paisley appliqués, ropes of pearls, and assorted jewels. Basically, if you went to a sari store and got every bit of decoration you could find and found a way to put it on a young child..... it would look sort of like this. Mind you, that's a lot of work to put all that on!

Indiana Jones

The Little Maharaja's costume

(high rez pic)

Fabric has wired worked swirls.  Most of the glitter is provided by the heavy multi-stranded jeweled necklaces The Little Maharaja's turban necked in dangling beads.

(high rez pic)

Seriously, it is well worth going to see the stunning costumes in this exhibit! If you are anywhere near Delaware, try to make it to the Winterthur Museum before Jan 7. After this, there may only be one more stop on it's tour – at the  Durham Western Heritage Museum, Omaha, NE from January 25 - March 25, 2007 but check first because Winterthur's press release claims it is the last stop (maybe it was extended after the release was written).

bulletInfo for the Fashion in Film Exhibit:
bullet Winterthur Museum,  Route 52, Delaware
bullet now until Jan 07, 2007
bulletTues - Saturday , 10-5
bulletClosed Christmas & Thanksgiving, see their web for the yuletide schedule
bulletAdmission cost: For visitors age 8 and over. Adults, $30, Members, $15; students/seniors (age 62+), $28; child 8-11, $20.
bulletSee website for directions

Fine More reviews, images and more links, especially of the “Just Breathe” dress from Ever After at Costume's Guide.

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This page last updated 11/21/09