Starstruck by Hollywood costume exhibition
Published 30/06/2011 | 16:53
Belfast is set to experience a touch of Hollywood glamour this summer with the opening of the Starstruck exhibition at the Ulster Museum.
The museum is showcasing some of the most recognised and extravagant costumes from major film and television productions, such as The King's Speech and Downton Abbey.
Painstakingly assembled by a small team of people in just one week, the exhibition is the first of its kind in Ireland and allows the public a feast of show-stopping creations from the last 40 years.
Most noticeable is the historical accuracy of each costume and achieving this seems no easy task.
In depicting eras where the sewing machine had not yet been invented Elise Taylor, Curator of Applied Art, reveals how costume designers hand-sew each creation to ensure that they look just as they would have done at the time.
In addition, the practical aspects are taken into consideration where productions like the Oscar-winning King's Speech are concerned.
Viewing a costume worn by Helena Bonham-Carter in her role as the late Queen Mother, the basic but intricate design of the dress and fur stole made quite an impact on Ms Taylor.
"It's very typical of how the Queen Mother used to dress," she said.
"She was very conservative but this is vintage fur and of course there wasn't the same feeling about fur at the time because it was a necessary part of your dress if you could afford it. There was no central heating at the time and she lived in a draughty palace."
Even with the hot lights used during filming, small details like the many layers worn by Colin Firth in his part as King George VI are necessary to keep the role consistent with the character he played.
Mannequins are also dressed with the corsets and under-skirts typical of the time, and each exhibit gives visitors a detailed description with quotes from the actors and actresses who wore them - although these items are not without their issues.
A description by Julia Sawalha in her role as Dorcas Lane in the BBC drama Lark Rise To Candleford sums up the difficulties faced: "Sometimes in the stage directions you'll read 'She runs down the street', and Victorian ladies did not run!" she wrote.
"This wasn't just out of manners, it's physically impossible to run in a long skirt and a corset, so you have to constantly remind yourself of things that they did and didn't do!"
The museum was unable to acquire the servant's costumes from Downton Abbey as they were being used for filming, a reflection in itself of the Victorian era where fashions did not change for servants as they did for the wealthy aristocracy.
Ms Taylor explained that often they were given clothes previously worn by other servants before them, causing them to be ill-fitting and sometimes uncomfortable.
The Ulster Museum has high hopes for Starstruck.
"This is a uniquely chosen exhibition. We selected this because of the kind of films and productions they came from and the celebrities they represent," said Ms Taylor.
"We want to make sure people are interested and find it as fascinating as we do."
The Starstruck exhibition will open on Friday 1 July and finish at the end of September with a chance to watch some of the films featured at 2pm every Sunday. Admission is £3.50 between 10am and 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday.