I had the great fun of driving to Atlanta to spend the afternoon with friend Liza at the latest exhibition at SCADFASH, Cinematic Couture. As the name tells us, this was a show of film costumes. SCADFASH does not have a huge permanent collection from which to mount lavish exhibitions, so they rely on shows that travel. This one is from Cosprop, a UK based costume house.
If the name sounds familiar, that’s because the exhibitions at Biltmore Estate I written about have also used Cosprop. If you are a fan of British costume dramas, you have seen Cosprop’s work. They have provided costumes for everything from Downton Abbey to the 1996 version of Pride and Prejudice.
I was a bit concerned that this exhibition would be a repeat of costumes we had already seen, and there was indeed a bit of overlap. However, it was the experience of seeing the same garments at two different venues that ended up being one of the biggest revelations of this visit.
There’s so much that I love about SCADFASH exhibitions, so I’ll start there. The big first thing is the ability to get close to the garments. At Biltmore some of the garments are behind glass due to their being displayed in unmonitored locations. The dress, above left, is an embroidered wool dress worn by Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane, a film about how Jane Austen became the writer we know, and most of us love. We didn’t give it much of a second look when we saw it at Biltmore.
But here we can see the same dress as presented at SCADFASH. The mounting was so much better, but it was being able to actually see and appreciate the details that made the difference. The dress at Biltmore was in a hotel public space, and the windows caused so much glare that the dress sort of disappeared into the glass cage.
I’m always amazed at all the work that goes into just one costume. This dress was hand embroidered, though some of the others had smaller areas of machine embroidery.
Well, I’m sorry that the back view is poor, but the point is that you can see the back. Most of the costumes are displayed on circular platforms that are pulled away from the wall enough so that visitors can go behind most of the garments. The docent who was assisting us said that was a deliberate choice because so many visitors were trying to squeeze behind the exhibits to see the backs. So thanks SCAD for making it easy for us.
Just so you’ll not think I’m picking on Biltmore, here’s another comparison shot. This dress was worn by Emma Thompson is Sense and Sensibility. On the left is the dress at SCADFASH, and on the right you see it at Biltmore. While the glare on glass is still distracting, I like the mount better, especially the way the shawl is draped. And the fit just looks better as well.
Again we are treated to the back of this costume, with that lovely little train. You could see the back at Biltmore as well, but it seemed a bit cramped in that glass box.
Here you can see the lovely texture of the dress and of the shawl, but you can also see one big old blaring anachronism: shiny modern synthetic gloves. We had a bit of a discussion with the docent, and then the curator appeared and we had a word or two with him as well. As it turns out, Cosprop sent the gloves used in the films, but in many cases they were too small to fit on the mannequins’ hands. We tried to point out that the exhibits would look better with no gloves at all than with these silly shiny things.
It seems like Jane Austen is always a favorite, and my guess is that costumes were chosen at least in part because they were likely to have been seen by most visitors. This costume was worn by Miss Bingley in Pride and Prejudice.
And this was worn by the other Bingley sister, Mrs. Hurst. I don’t have a photo of the dress representing the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennet, but her dress was quite plain in comparison to the richer city girl Bingleys.
This is a button from Mr. Darcy’s waistcoat. The button is hand embroidered, but the buttonhole looks machine made to me. Still, it shows an amazing concern toward the details.
My last Regency/Austen photo is this crocheted silk pineapple purse. It was carried by Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion. It just goes to show how one special little piece can really make one’s costume.
In my next installment we’ll go back in time to the Georgians, and forward to the Victorians.