My mum texted me on the 13th October to ask if I would like to go to the V&A ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibition during my half-term week. Of course I would. I had heard it was coming and couldn’t wait to see it. I used to want to be a costume designer (which explains my A Level choices – textiles, history and English – no film studies in those days) and the power and importance of costume in film, as well as the amazing glamour, has alway fascinated me.
We arranged to go on the 23rd as I was going to be down in London for an Amanda Palmer gig anyway (dream day!) and it was the day before my mum started her radiotherapy. We decided that it would be good to take her mind off it. We met outside the doors at midday, had a lovely French lunch, a quick trip to Skandium (even more of a dream day) and then went in to the exhibition at just before 3.
I don’t think I had prepared myself properly for what I was going to see. One of the first costumes was Vivien Leigh’s green curtain dress from ‘Gone With The Wind’ and it made me cry. I think it was the combination of my mum being poorly (and my sister Joey), and the fact that I was so happy to be there with her, she had introduced me to the film when I was twelve. I watched it twice in a row the first time I saw it (that’s seven and a half hours) and then every day for the entire holiday. I watched it while writing a list of every costume change that Vivien Leigh made (I’m sure I have the list somewhere…), I have the poster over my fireplace in my current flat, a jigsaw, books on the film and its stars… I haven’t watched it for years now, but it is part of my childhood and so to be faced with a physical representation of that was too much for me. I felt like an hysterical Catholic faced with the relic of a saint. But it felt lovely and comforting and surreal.
The whole exhibition is amazing, I recommend everyone to go and see it.