British Film Institute Donates Hollywood Costumes to the Victoria & Albert Museum

The dress designed by Edith Head for Ginger Rogers as Liza Elliot in the 1944 film ‘Lady in the Dark’.

Nothing goes together quite like film and fashion. Well, at least in this writers world. And as the V&A Museum is set to open its doors on their Hollywood Costume exhibition this weekend, it has announced that its permanent collection is set to grow much larger. The British Film Institute announced that it will transfer its entire collection of film costumes to the museum, one of the largest public collections in the world. Over 500 pieces are being set for their transfer, some created by the likes of Edith Head, John Mollo, and Sandy Powell.

Highlights in the collection include a silk satin wedding gown designed for Mae West in  I’m No Angel (1933); the black tassel dress designed by Orry-Kelly for Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane in Some Like it Hot (1959), and John Bloomfield’s superman costume worn by Christopher Reeve in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). In a landmark loan by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the exhibition will also play host to the original ruby slippers, worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. This will be the first time the shoes have left the US.

“The V&A is home to the National Collection for the Performing Arts and has one of the greatest collections of performance costume and fashion in the world,” said Paul Ruddock, chairman of the V&A Board of Trustees. “It is my great pleasure to announce that the BFI’s wonderful collection of film costumes, a number of which are on display in Hollywood Costume, will join the V&A’s permanent collections. Design for film is a fascinating subject and the transfer of the BFI’s collection represents an exciting new area of collecting for the V&A.”


The British Film Institute’s collection was assembled over 20 years from 1980 to 2000 and has given the V&A the ability to showcase a variety of fashion and designers from stage, music performance, and now film. The majority of the costumes will be housed at the V&A’s site in Olympia where the new Clothworkers’ Center for Textile and Fashion Study and Conservation will open at Blythe House in October next year. Highlights from the BFI archive will go on display in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance galleries. Hollywood Costume opens on 20 of October.

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