Heavenly Costumes: Dressed By Angels Exhibition

One of the exciting things about being a writer, is that I am lucky enough to attend private views and press views of fascinating events. One such event recently, was the press view of the Dressed By Angels: 175 Years of Costumes exhibition.

My full report and pictures are already live on our Vintage News site, so I shall just do a brief recap here, rather than reiterate the entire report.

Angels is the world’s largest costume house, and have been supplying the entertainment industry with perfectly historically accurate costumes and accessories for over 175 years. Their warehouse contains over 8 miles(!) of costume rails, and their work has been featured across numerous television, theatre and film productions.

Mrs Henderson Presents (2005)

As a university student, I was lucky enough to visit their workshop in my first year as a costume undergraduate, and I was blown away.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This exhibition is displayed across numerous rooms, and there is plenty to see. The display begins by taking the audience back to Victorian London, and goes right up to the modern-day. Along the way we see – bespoke top hat and tails for Fred Astaire, Moira Shearer’s red ballet shoes from the movie of the same name, one of Twiggy’s gown’s from the movie The Boyfriend, Heath Ledger’s clown costume from his final film; The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, stage costumes from the Broadway production of Wicked, and many, many more.

Stage costumes from the Broadway production of Wicked

Immediately recognisable are Rose and Jack’s costumes from James Cameron’s 1997 Titanic, various costumes from Mrs Henderson Presents 2005, a stunningly realistic interpretation – complete with cat(!) of Blofeld’s costume from Bond film You Only Live Twice 1967, costumes from The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 1968, Velvet Goldmine 1998, My Week With Marilyn 2011 and again, many more.

Moira Shearer’s ballet costume from The Red Shoes (1948)

A recreation of Moira’s ballet shoes from The Red Shoes (1948)

The exhibition was so large, and contained so many wonderful costumes, it really is difficult to name them all!

Costumes for Fred Astaire and his sister Adele for the Broadway production of Lady Be Good (1926)

I would definitely recommend visiting Dressed By Angels, if you are a movie fan, or an avid lover of costumes, fashion and historical clothing. Alongside the actual costumes, there is also a gallery of costume designs, and a recreation of a costume workroom, giving you a behind the scenes glimpse into the process of costume making.

Mrs Henderson Presents (2005)

Dressed By Angels: 175 Years of Costumes runs until 3rd January 2016. For ticket and venue information, visit their website here.

Until next time dears!


The Day I Found Myself In Wonderland

I am a big fan of Lewis Carroll, specifically, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass. I adored the books when I was a young child, and equally loved the 1951 Disney movie. Indeed, my absolute favourite Disney movie has always been, and shall always be, Alice in Wonderland. It only occurred to me recently that this may be slightly odd, as it is one of only a handful of Disney films that do not feature a romantic storyline.

I continued my adoration of Alice throughout my formative education years, my final year University dissertation was based on Alice, and indeed my penultimate final year assignment was based on Through the Looking Glass. My workroom bookshelf is heaving with various different editions of Alice, including a copy I have had since I was 5, and a pop-up book edition.

Back in December, I briefly talked about an exhibition that was due to open in May; in this blog post here. Well, it now being May, I attended the exhibition at the weekend. But, even better than that, I booked a ticket to attend the Alice & Fashion one day conference, that was held in conjunction with the exhibition.

The conference was held at the same venue as the exhibition; The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. I arrived bright & early, and was able to look around the exhibition just after registering for the conference.

The exhibition is small, I had expected it to be bigger, but it is perfectly formed. It features an original children’s dress from the late 1800’s, Liberty print fabrics, various books & magazine incarnations of Alice, Japanese interpretations of Alice, and much more.

My favourite item from the exhibition was a MGM studios shot of Deborah Kerr, wearing a novelty print Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland blouse.

The conference was fascinating, it featured various speakers discussing different aspects of Lewis Carroll and his Wonderland. Will Brooker opened the conference with his paper on ‘A Two-Way Looking Glass: Alice and Popular Culture’. This piece was particularly interesting to me, as I had no idea of some of the literature/comics/television dramas that incarnations of Alice had popped up in. Indeed, I discovered that Alice & the Mad Hatter both appeared in DC Comics Batman (coincidentally, in a very similar storyline that has just aired on Gotham if any of you watch it).

Kiera Vaclavik then gave her paper on ‘Alice: A Dedicated Follower of Fashion’. Kiera is the curator of the Alice Look exhibition, so it was wonderful to meet her and hear her insights on Alice’s dress and fashion.

I also heard from Aneesh Barai, on his ‘Interwar Alice’ paper, Josephine Rout on her ‘Alice & the Pirates’ paper; and more.

One of the absolute highlights of the conference for me, was being able to handle objects from the museum archives & from private collectors. I loved seeing some of the Liberty’s fabrics up-close, and seeing some of the beautiful prints from their ‘Pictures and Conversations’ SS15 collection (I actually ordered some of their beautiful fabric, just waiting for it to arrive! I simply couldn’t resist..)

It was wonderful to see original vintage sewing patterns from the 1950s that featured Alice, specifically to be made-up for a child’s fancy dress party.

I also got to meet Josie Smith, the pattern cutter for Roksanda, who has a dress featured in the exhibition. The dress is made from fabric actually printed with Carroll’s text & John Tenniel’s illustrations. It was wonderful to meet her and see her pattern pieces and prototypes, especially after seeing the final dress in the exhibition!

I had a marvellous time, and I’m so glad that I booked a place to attend the conference. I discovered lots of information and facts that I was previously unaware of, and indeed, this has only served to increase my curiosity..

The exhibition The Alice Look runs until 1st November 2015 at the Museum of Childhood.

Until next time dears! (Unless any of you happen to fall down a rabbit hole..)