I knew I would love LACMA's current exhibit "Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915." Getting to view the historical dresses, men's wear and period undergarments with a top Hollywood costume designer was an extra treat.
Marlene Stewart knows how clothing defines character. She began her career styling the wardrobe for Madonna's early music videos. Think corsets and pointy bras. Director Oliver Stone saw her work and hired Stewart to create 1960s period costumes for The Doors. She has costumed the actors on a wide range of projects, including JFK, Gone In Sixty Seconds, Ali, 21 Grams, Tropic Thunder and Night At the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Her most recent project was a science fiction drama, Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman. She's known for her meticulous research and attention to historical detail.
All are reasons I invited her to join me for an afternoon at the museum.
"When you get a chance to see pieces like this up close it's hard to believe people had the capabilities of making such high quality garments back then," she said as we walked among fashions worn mostly by the upper classes. Stewart enjoyed seeing real examples of fashions she has studied for her film characters. Pausing at one of her favorite pieces, a man's vest dating to the French Revolution, Stewart imagined the wearer. "He was most likely a bon vivant, possibly an aristocrat," she mused. "It says so much to me. I immediately want to go and do research!"
In the five-minute LA Observed video, Stewart talks about the clothing and costuming for movies as we walk through the exhibit. Fashioning Fashion is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (in the new Resnick Pavilion) through March 6, 2011. The curators are Kaye D. Spilker and Sharon S. Takeda.
Exhibit photos courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Photo of Marlene Stewart by Judy Graeme