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Tinseltown comes to Melbourne

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Recently, Milk Bar began to spot advertisements for the new exhibition for Hollywood Costume. First above the baggage collection at the airport; then on a billboard on the Tullamarine freeway. We’re second rate detectives at best but you get the sense that something is cooking at ACMI, and they are palpably excited about it.

Entering the exhibition, guests are greeted by a large screen with a montage of films set to a somewhat rousing theme – a tease to what lies beyond the next corner. As you make your way into the body of the exhibit, there they are – the Hollywood costumes.

The first thing you notice is that the garments are not sealed in glass cases but out in the open just feet away from you. Surely that isn’t Audrey Hepbern’s actual little black dress? Is that really The Big Lebowski’s dressing gown? It is.

Hollywood Costume started its life at the V&A in London, where it became the second largest grossing exhibit in its history. It took five years to gather all the scattered threads around the world, but it was well worth it: in one room you can see getups from Taxi Driver and Titanic to Bond and Bourne.

The underlying message of the exhibition is that the best costumes are the costumes you don’t notice; the ones that blend seamlessly with the developing narrative and aid the immersive experience of a film. The detail and thought behind every button and blouse is something we don’t readily think about, and that is the art of the whole business.

Tell us, when will you ever get another chance to see Batman, Superman, Spiderman and Catwoman attire in Melbourne again? Not until the next Hayley’s Comet.  So off you go, and quickly.

Hollywood Costume is showing at ACMI, Federation Square until August 18.


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